Bandipur wildfire brought to SC's notice

Vegetation on 8,000 acres, under four ranges of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve, was destroyed in forest fire, last month. DH FILE PHOTO

The 'man-made' Bandipur forest fire has been brought to the notice of the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to take up on March 6 a plea filed by the Kerala government in 2010 challenging the night traffic ban on the national highway passing through the Tiger Reserve.

“The core area of Bandipur forest saw a fire started early morning on February 23 near Kundakere Range, and it spread to Maddur Range and GS Betta Range and approximately about 8,000 acres of four ranges got affected out of total area of 874 sqkm. It is reported that as per the Chief of Forest Force the fire was man-made,” an affidavit filed by Cyriac Philip, a Mysuru resident, through advocate G R Mohan, stated.

Philip is one of the respondents in the Kerala government's special leave petition filed against the Karnataka High Court's order of March 9, 2010, imposing the night traffic ban between 9 pm and 6 am on the national highway passing through Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

On January 21, Attorney General K K Venugopal had told the Supreme Court there was a difference of opinions between the Ministries of Road Transport and Highways, and Environment and Forest with regard to building an elevated road to deal with the issue of night traffic ban on highways passing through Chamarajnagar district.

Philip further pointed out, according to the notification, there shall be no felling of trees either on forest, government, revenue or private lands, without prior permission of the state government. The felling of the trees shall be regulated in accordance with the Karnataka Forest Act 1963, and the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act 1976.

“The Ministry of Environment and Forests on October 4, 2012, notified that since the Bandipur Tiger Reserve was not only a central and critical part of 5,500 sqkm forest area, there has to be a prohibition of movement of vehicular traffic during the night,” he stated.

Undertaking of activities related to tourism like overflying the national park area by any aircraft, hot air balloons, helicopters, gliders, parasailing etc was also prohibited as the area was declared as an eco-sensitive zone, he added.

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