Even as the State Government dithers over implementing a night ban on movement of vehicles on the national highways passing through Bandipur forests, a traffic research firm in Bangalore has sought a complete ban on vehicular movement in the forests if any meaningful progress is to be made for wildlife conservation.

A survey carried out by Traffic Engineers and Safety Trainers (TEST) during March 2009 showed that a large number of vehicles plied through the highways -- around 25 every hour -- exposing the animals to a high level of noise and air pollution, besides the high beam lights that blind them during the night.

The Chairman of TEST M.N. Sreehari, who is also the adviser to the State Government on Traffic, Transportation and Infrastructure Project, felt the night ban on vehicular traffic would not be enough to shield the wildlife from human disturbances. “Some animals rest during night while others do so during the day. The only way to protect the forests is a complete ban on vehicular traffic,” he said. “We will approach the State Government soon and seek a complete ban on traffic movement,” Prof. Sreehari told The Hindu.

Apart from goods-laden trucks and passenger buses that cut through the Bandipur forests to reach Tamil Nadu, a large number of four-wheelers carrying tourists either to Ooty or the forest resorts ply along National Highway 67. “The number of vehicles increases during weekends and vacations, pushing up the noise and air pollution levels and thereby disturbing the wildlife. The survey also revealed that the noise pollution level in the forests reaches 40 to 50 decibels, which is more than double the 20 decibel-level prevalent during the night in the cities,” he said.

Prof. Sreehari said an alternative route to Ooty from Bangalore could be via Hosur, Salem and Coimbatore. “A majority of tourists from north India reach Bangalore before proceeding to Ooty. The alternative route is also connected by rail,” he said.

The Forest Department should make arrangements to take tourists inside the forest areas only in electric buggies, which cause minimal noise and air pollution, he suggested.

Meanwhile, vehicles continue to ply along the national highways passing through the Bandipur National Park in the night despite a ban due to “practical” difficulties.

The Deputy Commissioner of Chamarajanagar district Manoj Kumar Meena said the authorities were spreading awareness among vehicle users plying on the route about the night ban.

Though vehicles are allowed to ply, the drivers are handed out a pamphlet informing them about the ban on the movement of traffic from Melukamanahalli forest check-post of Gopalaswamy Betta Wildlife Range to Kekkanahalla forest check-post situated on the inter-State border between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

“If we start implementing the ban in total, vehicles will start piling up near the check-post. There could also be chaos. But, the ban will be enforced in due course,” he said.

Mr. Meena disclosed that he had called a meeting of Forest Department officials on August 23 to sort out the matter.