Rahul Gandhi irks environmentalists as he seeks lifting of Bandipur night traffic ban

Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday irked many environmentalists when he asked a question in the Lok Sabha urging the Centre to lift the existing night traffic ban in Bandipur Tiger Reserve. He also asked if the Centre will consider the proposal for constructing an elevated corridor, which has been opposed vehemently by environmentalists and Forest Department officials. To his unstarred question, Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road, Transport and Highways, said that status quo will be maintained.

At present only four government-run buses and emergency vehicles operate in the restricted period between 6:00 pm to 6:00 am in the 25-km stretch of the National Highway 212  thanks to continuous efforts by wildlife conservations who had even gone to courts to ensure that the ban is not lifted. 

In January, after much pressure from various forums, the Centre to the joy of environmental activists had clarified that it will drop the project to construct elevated corridors in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve as proposed under the Bhartimala project. 

Even the National Tiger Conservation Authority had already advised the Centre not to go ahead with the project since it could harm the habitat of more than 100 tigers and many wild animals. 

The existing traffic ban has been in effect since 2009 when the Karnataka High Court banned traffic flow after dark. The order was passed in relation to a case pertaining to roadkills, where at least 215 animals were run over between 2004 and 2007. Commuters currently use a 30-km detour of the Hunsur-Gonikoppa-Kutta-Mananthavady Road.

Those in the know of the deliberations of this night ban have told TNM that from time to time the Kerala government has tried to ease this restriction even opposing its own forest department. Since, 2009 in multiple meetings between state governments of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka this issue had come up.  And every time, activists from all these three states have held protests against the Kerala government and the National Highway Authority of India.

Details of Rahul’s question and the answer can be found here.