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Kerala government pitches for night traffic ban on Bandipura Road to be lifted, hand of smugglers lobby likely

Global warming and climate change are on top of the United Nation's agenda.

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Updated:April 20, 2015, 12:53 PM IST
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Kerala government pitches for night traffic ban on Bandipura Road to be lifted, hand of smugglers lobby likely
Global warming and climate change are on top of the United Nation's agenda.

Bandipura (Mysore): Global warming and climate change are on top of the United Nation's agenda. These are the most discussed subjects during the Earth Summit. But these critical life-changing issues don't seem to matter to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. Though the Supreme Court had rejected Kerala's appeal to lift the night traffic ban on NH 212, which traverses through Bandipur, Chandy has been repeatedly knocking on the doors of Vidhana Soudha to sate the greed of a small section of Kerala businessmen.

The night traffic ban in Bandipur had come into effect in May 2009 which effectively shut the doors on traffic plying through the prime tiger reserve between 9 pm and 6 am. Fifteen hours is ample time to do whatever business one wants to do, but the Kerala business community insists that it be allowed to use the road through the night. Why?

Obviously, the ban has hurt their purse. The once flourishing illegal trade has been stopped over the last five years, though there are reports that sand is still being moved to Kerala through this national highway during the night. Both the Kerala and Karnataka governments are aware that the route is being used by the transport mafia to move spirit, sand and other commodities during the cover of darkness. It is an established fact that the sugar produced much above the prescribed quota by mills was being routed to Dubai through the Kerala port.

Chandy ought to understand that environmental matters weigh far above the needs of a few businessmen. He would do well to advice them to use the alternative road carved out for this purpose by the Karnataka government. More than 70 crore has been spent on this road project.

Though the same ban prevails on NH 67 (which snakes through the Bandipur and Madumaial tiger reserves), Tamil Nadu has not raised any objection. As in the case of Nagarhole tiger reserve which is shut between 6 pm and 6 am, businessmen from Tamil Nadu have adapted to the system.

Our forests are fragmented. Our wildlife population is being decimated. Our eco-system has been, and is being, battered. Though a niggardly 19 per cent of the land comes under forests, we are still finding ways to shrink it.

Mr Narendra Modi, like the Kerala CM, has set out on a mission to destroy what little is left of forests and wildlife. These gentlemen are hell bent on economic empowerment when the critical need is to increase forest cover, which should ideally be 33 per cent of the land mass.

Fortunately, Mr Siddaramaiah has the interest of our forest and wildlife at heart. Else, the door to hell would be thrown open for night riders to run over tigers, leopards and elephants without a care in the world. Perhaps, Mr. Chandy could a leaf out of Mr. Siddaramaiah's book on conservation.

(Joseph Hoover is a famous Wildlife enthusiast, photographer and a member of Karnataka Wildlife Board. Views expressed here are personal)

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