Bandipur: SC asks Centre to develop new route as NH

The Supreme Court has asked the Union government to develop the alternative route as the national highway to ensure that the roads, passing through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve, is shut down permanently, since the issue related to “nothing less than the core area of the national park”. DH file photo

The Supreme Court has asked the Union government to develop the alternative route as the national highway to ensure that the roads, passing through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve, is shut down permanently, since the issue related to “nothing less than the core area of the national park”.

A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Surya Kant, which ordered that the night traffic ban on the national highway 212 should remain in operation, asked the Ministry of Environment, Forest (MoEF) and Climate Change to give suggestions within four weeks as to how NH 275 and the State Highway number 90 can be made into a national highway.

A PIL petitioner, whose plea led to imposition of traffic restriction, contended that the road, passing through the core and buffer zones of tiger conservation areas, ought not to be permitted at all.

He cited Section 38V of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 which states the core or critical tiger habitat areas of national parks and sanctuaries are 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 said, in its detailed order released on Saturday.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Ministry of Environment and Forests have suggested maintenance of the status quo, that is, the ban on night traffic on the stretch between 9 pm and 6 am. The Karnataka government, for its part, maintained steps have, in fact, been taken to strengthen the alternative route to the city of Mysuru, which comprised of part NH 275 and part State Highway Number 90.

“We, therefore, direct the MoEF file an affidavit within a period of four weeks with suggestions as to how NH 275 and State Highway No 90 be made into a National Highway (that is that State Highway No 90 be merged into NH 275), and to see that both the width and other features of this highway be made at least equal to NH 212 which may then, in the long run, be closed down altogether,” the bench said.

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 falls in Karnataka and 4.8 km in Kerala. The other portion of the road, measuring 10.10 km also goes through the wildlife sanctuary, being part of the buffer zone. In this, 4.5 km runs through Karnataka and 5.6 km through Kerala. Thus, as much as 34.60 km goes through the protected area.

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