In a bid to end the nine-year-long ban on night traffic through NH-212 that passes through the Bandipur tiger reserve, the Centre has now written a letter to the Karnataka Chief Secretary requesting “a short adjournment of 15 days”. Ministry of Road Transport and Highways Secretary YS Malik, in a letter dated July 21 to the Karnataka Chief Secretary, has asked Karnataka to send an immediate consent for widening and opening the road with no restrictions but with mitigation measures such as animal passageways, reported The Indian Express.
The decision to ban night traffic at the Bandipur tiger reserve was taken by the Karnataka High Court in 2009 following the death of 215 mammals including birds and snakes between 2004 and 2007 in Bandipur. Following this, the night traffic on two national highways — NH-67 and NH-212 that linked Karnataka with Tamil Nadu and Kerala respectively was banned.
“Since Karnataka had its reservations on removing the night restrictions on plying of traffic, I had almost finalised my report for filing before the Hon’ble Supreme Court,” the MoRTH secretary said in the letter. He added that the issue of the widening of the road came up at a meeting between the chief minister and the PWD minister of Karnataka and the MoRTH minister on July 17. Malik went on to state that the chief minister had agreed to the recommendations of the ministry that suggested the opening of the NH 212 on a 24×7 basis and widening it with adequate mitigation measures.
“Request you to kindly send the consent of the Government of Karnataka with the proposed scheme immediately so that the report of the committee is finalised,” the letter read.
The Indian Express report citing sources in the Chief Minister’s Office in Karnataka said that they were considering legal opinion against changing the state’s stated position before the court. In April 2018, the Karnataka ministry in a letter to the MoRTH had stated that the state’s stand was to “continue with the existing restrictions” and that Tamil Nadu had also accepted the present arrangement. The next hearing in the case will take place on August 8.
It was in the month of January earlier this year that a committee was set up by the Supreme Court of India under the secretary, MoRTH. This Committee consisted of a representative each from the state governments of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to look into the issue and submit a report within three months.