Bandipur Tiger reserve: Ban on night traffic continues

Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supported the ban in order to protect the wildlife and ecology while Kerala resisted it, saying the restriction on traffic affected tourism, trade, health and business. DH file photo

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered that ban on night traffic on the national highway passing through the Bandipur Tiger reserve would remain in operation for now.

It asked the Union government to come out with “permanent solution to obviate passing of the highways through the core area of Tiger reserve”.

The court also “agreed in principle” that the traffic on roads passing through the buffer zone of the protected areas, should not be permitted.

“What needs to be done is the strengthening of an alternative route. Therefore, we direct the Union government's Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in consultation with the Ministry of Environment and Forest to file an affidavit within four weeks with suggestions on the closure of it in long run,” a bench of Justices R F Nariman and Surya Kant said.

The court relied upon the suggestions were given by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, and other experts views for the continuance of the ban on traffic between 9 pm and 6 am on the national highways number 212, saying, “we need to accept it at present”.

The court took into consideration contentions from Kerala, represented by senior advocate Jaydeep Gupta and Karnataka by senior advocate Basava P Patil and NTCA and others, to pass its orders in the matter.

Karnataka and Tamil Nadu supported the ban in order to protect the wildlife and ecology while Kerala resisted it, saying the restriction on traffic affected tourism, trade, health and business.

Senior advocate Harish Salve, who was present in the court for some other case, intervened to contend that sanctuaries and tiger reserves must be protected and going the extra mile would cause no harm.

After hearing the parties including the PIL petitioners, the bench said, “We are of the view that what we are dealing with is nothing less than core area of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve, a major Tiger reserve”

The court noted that the road in National Highway 212 passing through Kolegal to Kozhikode via Mysore was a core area.

During the hearing, the Karnataka government, supporting the night traffic ban, submitted that an alternative route was already being developed and a sum of Rs 75 crore has been spent on it.

The Kerala government for its part contended a unilateral ban was imposed for traffic. “This road connects to Wayanad, which was critical to link Kozhikode and Mysore. This is not a question of pleasure drive. This is essential for the movement of goods. The ban was causing widespread unrest in the state,” state counsel Gupta said.

The deputy conservator of forest wildlife division, Tiger Project, Bandipur division of Chamarajnagar district had on June 3, 2009 passed an order under the Motor Vehicle Act, prohibiting traffic of motor vehicles of all kinds on national highway number 212 between Gundlupet and Sulthan Bathtery and on the national highway number 67 between Gundlupet and Ooty. This order was lifted within days on June 10, 2009, on various representations claiming it may cause inconvenience to the people of Waynad and Kerala. However, an advocate, L Srinivasa Babu challenged the decision before the high court, which restored the ban.

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