Bandipur: Centre gets 4 weeks on alternative road

Vehicles move on the high whay through Bandipur even as an elephant attempts to cross the road. hus, As much as 34.60 KM of road passes through the protected area. DH File Photo

The Supreme Court on Friday gave additional four weeks time to the Centre to respond to its suggestion for developing an alternative route as the national highway in order to ensure that the roads passing through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve are shut down permanently.

A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Surya Kant also allowed Ministry of Road Transport and Highway, along with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to file its response in the matter.

The top court on August 7 directed that the ban on night traffic would continue to operate.

Observing that since the issue related to "nothing less than the core area of the national park," the court had then ordered that the night traffic ban on the national highway 212 (passing through Bandipur Tiger Reserve) should remain in operation. It had then asked the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to give suggestions within four weeks as to how NH-275 and state highway number 90 can be developed into a national highway.

Petitioners in a PIL, whose plea led to the imposition of traffic restriction, contended the roads through the core and buffer zones of tiger conservation areas ought not to be permitted at all. They cited Section 38V of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, which stated the core or critical tiger habitat areas of National Parks and sanctuaries were required to be kept as inviolate for the purposes of tiger conservation, without affecting the rights of the Scheduled Tribes or such other forest dwellers.

"In principle, we have no doubt that what he states is correct. However, what needs to be done, at the same time, is the strengthening of the alternative route which ought to be made at least as good as the particular route passing through the core and buffer zones of this tiger reserve,” the bench had then said.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Environment and Forests suggested to maintain the status quo - that is, ban on night traffic on the stretch between 9 pm and 6 am.

The Karnataka government, for its part, maintained steps have been taken to strengthen the alternative route to the city of Mysuru, which comprised part NH-275 and part State Highway no 90.

Out of NH-212 connecting Kollegal in Karnataka with Kozhikode in Kerala via Mysore, 24.5 KM goes through this core area of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve. Of which, 19.7 KM is in Karnataka and 4.80 KM in Kerala. The other portion of the road -  10.10 KM -  also goes through the Wild Life Sanctuary, being part of the buffer zone. Out of this, 4.50 KM runs through Karnataka and 5.6 KM through Kerala. Thus, as much as 34.60 KM of road passes through the protected area.

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