EDITORIAL | Barricade Centre’s idea, Save Bandipur

EDITORIAL | Barricade Centre’s idea, Save Bandipur

The Centre’s proposal to lift the existing ban on traffic at night through Bandipur National Park by constructing a wide barricaded road, elevated corridors and underpasses deserves outright condemnation. Bandipur, which was notified as a tiger reserve in 1974, forms the largest protected area in South India, along with adjoining Nagarahole, Mudumalai and Wayanad sanctuaries, and needs to be protected at all costs. The forest is also home to several endangered species, besides being the largest elephant habitat in the country. The road widening will lead to the felling of thousands of fully-grown trees while the barricades will fragment the forest, restricting the free movement of animals. A super-highway through this protected area will increase the vehicle density, leading to heavy air and noise pollution round the clock, putting wild animals under extreme stress.

READ: Bandipur night traffic ban key to saving wildlife

The dusk-to-dawn ban on traffic on this highway connecting Karnataka with Ooty in Tamil Nadu and Wayanad in Kerala was imposed in 2009, following the death of a large number of wild animals in road accidents. While Tamil Nadu, one of the affected parties, has not contested the ban, Kerala has unleashed a sustained campaign demanding restoration of night traffic. However, the state’s claim that the economy of its northern districts has been destroyed due to the ban does not hold much water as the highway is open for 15 hours a day while a convoy of eight buses and emergency vehicles are permitted at night. Kerala’s insistence that this particular stretch be opened when there are at least two alternative routes has raised suspicion that it is doing so under pressure from timber, sand and other lobbies whose activities have been severely impacted after the ban.

READ: Why Kerala is hell-bent on revoking night traffic ban

Karnataka’s persistent refusal to lift the ban forced the neighbouring state to seek legal recourse, but with little success. Now, with a Supreme Court-appointed committee too favouring continuance of the ban as the number of wildlife deaths have reduced significantly after the restrictions were enforced, it seemed to be the end of the road for Kerala’s stance. But, with the Centre mooting the bizarre idea of a barricaded corridor, ostensibly to broker peace between the two states, it has given new life to the controversy. Following strong protests by NGOs, environmentalists and wildlife enthusiasts who have launched the ‘Save Bandipur’ campaign, Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy has declared that there is no question of the state permitting the road-widening project. But mere statements will not inspire confidence unless backed by credible action. The state should pass a cabinet resolution strongly opposing the proposal and take all legal steps to protect Bandipur, now and in the future. Forests belong not just to us, but to future generations.

READ: Now foreigners bat for ‘Save Bandipur’