Bandipur: Greens oppose Kerala's elevated highway

The Bandipur night traffic ban has been a key issue during election campaigns in Wayanad.

Even as the Kerala government is still pressing for elevated highway along the Bandipur national park, environmentalists are strongly opposing it, citing that even the Supreme Court suggested a permanent closure of the stretch as it passed through the buffer zones of the tiger reserve.

According to environmentalists, the SC suggested total traffic ban along NH 212/766 in due course considering various aspects like the Wildlife Protection Act and reports of National Tiger Conservation Committee. Hence, there was no justification for the Kerala government still batting for an elevated highway, which was earlier opposed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

The Wayanad Nature Protection Group president N Badushah told DH that though they were only pressing for night traffic ban, it was good that the SC suggested a total ban in due course apart from upholding the night traffic ban. The court was convinced of the need for restricting traffic along the core and buffer zones of the tiger reserve.

Badusha said the Kerala government should have taken a stand that status quo may be maintained, instead of pressing for elevated road.

The major reasons cited by the Kerala government for pushing for traffic along the Bandipur stretch are that the alternative route via SH 90 and NH 275 increases the distance to parts of Karnataka by at least 40 kilometres and it also passes through forest areas.

Environmentalists agree, but point out that it did not include core tiger reserve zones like Bandipur. The alternative stretch passes through the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary and Nagarhole National Park.

Further widening of the alternative stretch may also invite strong resistance especially from areas like Kodagu, said Badusha.

The Bandipur night traffic ban has been a key issue during election campaigns in Wayanad over the last many years. There were allegations that the political parties were under pressure of strong lobbies, especially private transport services apart from a section of local people, to lift the night traffic ban along NH 212. Even Congress leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi, during his recent Lok Sabha election campaign there, mentioned that he was aware of difficulties faced by people over night traffic ban.

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