Thanks to the Deputy Commissioner of Chamarajanagar, who accepted a long-pending demand of the Forest Department to impose a night traffic ban from 9 pm to 6 am on both the National Highways passing through Bandipur Tiger Reserve, the order for such a ban came into effect in first week of June 2009.
There’s a road that leads to Ooty (Tamil Nadu) and the other leads to Wayanad (Kerala) and I was a Chief Wildlife Warden of the state then. Prior to this night traffic ban, both roads witnessed several road killings of not only reptiles, but also large mammals and big cats.
Miscreants moved on these roads freely and engaged in hunting animals and illegally transporting timber and livestock during nights.
Transportation of sand and movement of cattle to Kerala on these roads was a menace. Revenue department officials and the police struggled to contain them. Mafia in Kerala prevailed on their chief minister, who pressurised then Karnataka Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa and the ban on night traffic was revoked within a few days. NGOs approached the Karnataka High Court, and the CM’s order was stayed.
Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu government was quick to impose a similar ban in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, while Kerala continued to protest these bans.
The Kerala Chief Minister visited Bengaluru at least on three occasions with a delegation of transporters among others for discussion with his counterpart, but could not succeed in either getting the stay vacated or revoking the government decision to ban night traffic.
Finally, the High Court ordered the ban and the Kerala lobby challenged it in the Supreme Court. Later, the Ministry of Environment and Forests too did not support vehicular movement in Bandipur and night traffic ban has been imposed.
However, the ban on night traffic in Bandipur does not restrict movement of emergency vehicles and also allows two road transport corporation buses during the night hours from both sides. From Mysuru to Wayanad, there is an alternative route via Thithimathi. The ban has helped the conservation of forests to a great extent.
Now, it is distressing to note that Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi wants to favour illegal traffickers of his constituency. When his grandmother Indira Gandhi had done so much for conservation by bringing stringent laws like Wildlife (Protection) Act and Forest (Conservation) Act and regions are facing frequent climatic catastrophes on account of degradation of environment, he should rise above politics and support the ban.
Former Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Head of Forest Force) Karnataka...