Even as the Kerala Government is making desperate attempts to see that the ban on night traffic through the Bandipur forests are lifted, nothing much has come of it.
Karnataka, which had earlier banned movement of traffic on the road connecting it to Kerala through its Bandipur forests, has been exploring avenues to resolve the ticklish issue.
Karnataka has promised an alternative route to Kerala it has not been well-received by Kerala and its traders and businessmen. Kerala continues to insist that the best and fastest mode of transport is through the forest route alone.
Karnataka, on its part, is concerned over the rising animal deaths due to increased road traffic in the forest. It says a large number of animals, including a tiger, have been killed by vehicles over the years. It says just between 2004 to 2007, no less than 91 mammals, 56 birds and 75 reptiles were crushed by vehicles on the Bandipur forest road.
Several measures to slow down vehicles on the forest stretch, construction of road humps imposing speed limits, increasing the watch and ward staff have not met with the desired success.
Now, traders, tourist operators and regular commercial users of the road have come with a unique alternative to resolve the imbroglio. This idea, perhaps, would be the first of its kind in
The transport tourist operators have mooted the idea of a flyover covering the forest to link the two states. The flyover would be as long as eighteen kilometers and what is more it would completely eliminate the need for any measure to control, monitor or even regulate road traffic.
The flyover, these operators say, would allow the animals the much needed space on the ground, while permitting unrestricted and unrestrained movement of vehicles above the ground. Thus, as against the present ban, the flyover would facilitate 24 hour movement of vehicles.
The idea is still in infancy but the traders are sure that it will take shape after the Supreme Court takes a final decision on the night ban on movement of vehicles.
The night ban was first put in place by the Chamarajanagar administration following increasing deaths of animals caused by speeding vehicles.
This ban was upheld by the Karnataka High Court and it is now before the Supreme Court. The Karnataka High Court had upheld the closure of vehicular traffic through the two highways passing through Bandipur on March 9, 2010.
About 13 kilometres of national highway (NH) 212 and 20 kms of NH 67 that connect Karnataka with Kerala pass through the core area of Bandipur forests. The Karnataka High Court had banned traffic between 9 p.m., and 6 a.m., on these roads.
The matter is at present pending before the Supreme Court as Special Leave petition (SLP) 13838/2010, 24865 and 24866/2012.
Transport and tourist operators and traders claim they are incurring heavy losses due to the night ban on traffic. They claim that the cost required for construction of flyover is much less when compared to losses incurred by them and also the loss of animal life.
The flyover would cost in the region of Rs. 1,200 crores and the cost would have to be shared between the two states of Karnataka and Kerala and the Central Government.
Meanwhile, the Karnataka Government had already released Rs. 48 crore for the upgradation of the alternative road passing through Hunsur-Gonikoppa-Kutta-Kartikulam, which is only 30 km longer than the Bandipur forest road and this road can be used at night too. The upgradation of the alternative road is nearly complete, he added. Similarly, the discussion on Nanjangud-Nilambur railway line project is before the National Green Tribunal, Chennai.(Application No. 156/2013).