The Kerala government has opposed in the Supreme Court an alternative route proposed by Karnataka to bypass the night-time traffic ban on the National Highway 212 through the Bandipur National Park.
In an affidavit, Kerala submitted that the alternative route goes through the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve in Karnataka and Tholpetty wildlife sanctuary in Kerala “where wild animals are wandering freely in heavy numbers and it will take more time for the land acquisition for developing the route.” Further, clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is mandatory.
The Kerala government indicated that it would be better to open NH 212 (presently NH 766) for night time travel.
“The present NH is being used from time immemorial,” the State said.
“The ban on night traffic through NH 212 issued by the District Magistrate was without any study or preparation. Mudumalai, Bandipur Tiger Reserves and Wayanad Wildlife sanctuary make one contiguous tiger territory and tigers move freely within this area. It is illogical and inappropriate to impose enhanced level of restriction only in one part of this tiger territory to protect tigers. It will not yield the desired result,” Kerala argued in the Supreme Court.
Moreover, the State contended that the ban on night traffic on NH 212 from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. is not on the basis of any study or sound scientific findings.
On the other hand, the highway is the arterial road connecting the metro city of Kozhikode and Wayanad with Mysuru and Bengaluru.
The State dismissed the argument raised in the apex court that “by now the wildlife has adapted itself to the night-time restriction on traffic.” It said the argument owes itself more to a reluctance withdraw the ban.
The NH 212 connects not only major cities like Bengaluru and Cochin but also smaller ones like Vythiri, Chundel, Kalpetta, Muttil, Meenangadi, Sulthan Bathery, Gundelpett, Begur and Nanjangud towns. It is a vital economic link and the easiest route between the two States, Kerala argued.
For uniform curbs
“If at all any restrictions of vehicular movement is to be done in wildlife areas, it should be done uniformly across the country under the relevant laws such as the Wildlife Protection Act and not under the Motor Vehicles Act. Otherwise it amounts to colourable exercise of power. There is no provision under the MV Act to protect wildlife,” the State argued.