'Maintain status quo on night traffic ban in Bandipur'

'Maintain status quo on night traffic ban in Bandipur'

The number of deaths in the Bandipur tiger reserve have reduced due to the traffic restrictions, say experts.

An expert committee has told the Supreme Court to maintain status quo on the night restriction on the movement of vehicles on highways passing through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

“Importantly, wildlife such as tigers, elephants, gaur and others have behaviourally adjusted to the restricted traffic at night times, which is beneficial to the long-term conservation of these species,” a report of the committee, prepared by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) deputy inspector general Sanjay Kumar, said.

The top court had, on January 10, accepted a suggestion by Attorney General K K Venugopal to set up a committee headed by the secretary, Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, with representatives from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka along with officials from the NTCA, as “a way out of the present impasse”.

A number of activists and NGOs led by advocate G R Mohan had also sought that the restrictions on traffic be maintained.

The committee, after deliberations, field visits and discussions with various stakeholders, said, “It is concluded that the current prevailing situation does not warrant any changes. Similarly, there seems to be no need for changes in the current bus volume that are permitted during the restricted hours.”

The Karnataka government maintained that the order to close the highways (NH-212 and NH-67) passing through Bandipur Tiger Reserve Forest from 9 pm to 6 am was as per the guidelines of the tiger conservation action plan 2007-08 to 2010-11, to ensure inviolate conditions for the tigers, elephants and other wildlife and to avoid their death due to accidents, particularly during night hours.

The committee was also apprised that under the Bharatmala project, there is a proposal to connect Bengaluru with places in Kerala, in which the alignment is in such a manner that it does not pass through the protected areas.

The matter before the top court arose out of a special leave petition filed by the Kerala government, challenging a Karnataka High Court order of March 9, 2010, by which a prohibition on the movement of traffic between 9 pm and 6 am was reimposed on the Bandipur National Highway number 212 (re-designated as NH-766) from Gundlupet to Sultan Batheri and National Highway number 67 from Gundlupet to Ooty.

The panel members, after having undertaken a visit to the alternative road (SH 90, Hunsur-Gonikoppa-Kutta-Sultan Bathery), noted that it was similar in standard to a national highway and several passengers and goods vehicles from Karnataka and Kerala were using this alternative road.

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