The Karnataka government has officially opposed the central government's bizarre idea of constructing flyovers through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve to reduce the use of fue.
This comes a day after Karnataka's Minister for Public Works, HD Revanna, told the media that the state government was willing to construct four flyovers with each elevated corridor running up to 1 km.
"The government will construct the flyovers without incurring ecological damage," HD Revanna had told the media in Hassan on Thursday.
Refuting Revanna's statement, Karnataka Minister for Environment and Forests, R Shankar, said that the ministry had already written to the Centre, stating that work on the project cannot be taken up.
"No elevated corridor will be constructed. We will uphold the High Court ruling of banning vehicles from entering the reserve forest area at night. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had written to the Karnataka Chief Secretary, asking the state government to give environmental clearance for the project. But our ministry has written back saying that we will not take up the project as it will endanger the tiger population," Minister R Shankar said.
A night ban on vehicular traffic along the two national highways (NH-67 and NH-212) through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve was introduced in 2010 after the Karnataka High Court ordered the state government to do so.
These highways are closed for vehicular traffic at night time (9.00 pm to 6.00 am on NH 67 and 6:00 pm to 6:00 am on NH 212). However, all emergency vehicles (ambulance, fire services, people going to hospitals) and 16 state transport buses continue to be allowed to pass at night.
CM Kumaraswamy on Thursday sought a report from chief secretary TM Vijay Bhaskar regarding the letter from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and the state government's subsequent decision.
The CM also held a meeting with officials from the Forest Department and is said to have been shocked about his government allegedly consenting to construct elevated corridors in a reserved forest area.
Kumaraswamy also instructed the officials to inform the Centre that the state is opposed to lifting the night traffic ban and building elevated roads through the reserve.
The Central government had proposed the construction of elevated corridors after CM Kumaraswamy reportedly agreed to revoke the ban on night traffic on NH-212, which cuts through Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Chamarajanagar district.
The proposal includes construction of four elevated corridors of 1km length each. In a recent letter to Karnataka chief secretary, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways had said that CM Kumaraswamy had agreed to the construction of the elevated corridors.
Soon after Minister Revanna's statement was broadcast, environmental activists lashed out at the Centre. A petition was also filed on Change.org requesting people to support the ban on night traffic in the Bandipur forest area.
"A new elevated road will lead to the destruction of more than 50,000 trees in the critical tiger landscape, thus permanently causing disturbance and habitat fragmentation. The petitioner who has challenged the order of the high court in the Supreme Court on behalf of the opening of night traffic has three forest offence cases filed against him including the killing of an elephant calf, encroachment of forestland, tampering of the boundary of forestland and other serious offences. This puts the whole case in a different perspective and brings in large-scale suspicion about intentions of the challenge to open the night traffic," the petition states.