The State government is seeking ways and means to find an alternative for night traffic on the National Highway 766 passing through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in the wake of a Supreme Court-appointed expert panel submitting its report before the apex court recently.
Transport Minister A.K. Saseendran told The Hindu on Tuesday that the Forest and Wildlife Department and the Public Works Department had been asked to examine the recommendations of the five-member panel for constructing elevated corridors in the forest to overcome the nine-year-old traffic ban from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. on the national highway, which has been causing inconvenience to those travelling by road between Karnataka and Kerala.
“The Supreme Court has proposed to arrive at a consensus among stakeholders and find an amicable solution for the unhindered movement of wild animals, and to adopt security measures on the highway such as forest fencing. In fact, Kerala’s stand for alternative measures have been agreed in principle,” he said.
However, he said, the government had apprehensions over the huge expenditure of constructing elevated corridors of one-km length. Four of the elevated corridors will be on the Karnataka side while one will be on the forest stretch under the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary. Kerala has to bear 50% of the cost while the National Highways Authority of India will share the remaining amount. Besides, the proposal has to be approved by the Finance Department and finally get endorsed by theCabinet. The government was awaiting a Supreme Court order along with a demand for temporary lifting the ban. Previously, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had made a similar proposal to the Karnataka government for the construction of five elevated sections of one-km length each with steel-wired 8-feet high fencing on both sides along the entire length to prevent animals from crossing. But the Karnataka government rejected the proposal.
The night traffic ban was imposed by the Chamarajnagar Collector in June 2009, though the Karnataka government withdrew the order. But the Karnataka High Court stayed the decision of the government. Later, the Supreme Court also ratified the order of the HC stating that the forests primarily belonged to animals and tribespeople.