Environmentalists across Karnataka, including Bengaluru and neighbouring states, will stage a massive protest on October 27 at Maddur Gate in Bandipur Tiger Reserve against the proposed elevated corridor in forest land. The multiple elevated corridors project is part of the Bharatmala project on National Highway 212 through the forest core area. The activists also want the state government to refuse the Centre’s proposal to lift the existing night traffic ban in the 25 km stretch.
Sunil Baberwal, a member of Eco Volunteer Trust of India, said, “The project is completely unnecessary as there is already an existing bypass and it will completely destroy the forest. A total of 50,000 trees will be cut, and if such a large-scale construction takes place, it will naturally lead to man-animal conflict and will be a boon for poachers.”
He added, “At this rate, coming generations will only know of wildlife from photographs as there won’t be any living wild creatures.”
Activists are opposing the elevated corridor even more as the proposed project will narrow the animal passageway of 35kms along the highway to only 5kms.
The proposed constructions are illegal according to the Wildlife Act of 1972, which bans all kind of mega infrastructure projects within 10 kilometres of forest land or national park. Moreover, the National Tiger Conservation Authority in March had already advised the government not to go ahead with the project, since it will harm the habitat of more than 100 tigers and many wild animals.
TNM had earlier reported in August that activists had first raised alarm over the project when a communication regarding the night traffic ban between the Ministry of Road and Transport Secretary YS Malik and the Karnataka Chief Secretary got leaked. It was also reported how Forest Minister R Shankar had said that the state did not give consent for the project to the centre. It was widely reported that even though CM Kumaraswamy was against the project, his brother and PWD Minister HD Revanna was keen on starting it.
A Change.org petition, which was started at the same time, has received close to 40,000 signatures supporting the night traffic ban and opposing the elevated projects.
The existing traffic ban has been in effect since 2009 when the Karnataka High Court prohibited traffic flow after dark on NH-67 and NH-212 while hearing a case pertaining to roadkills of at least 215 animals being run over between 2004 and 2007. Most animals, including tigers and elephants, move freely and cross the highway during night time.
Only emergency vehicles and 16 state buses are allowed in the stretch during 9pm-6am. For night travel, private commuters currently use a 30-km detour of the Hunsur-Gonikoppa-Kutta-
Although there has been no change in the official stand of the state government, informed sources say that the timber mafia, private transport industry and, interestingly, the sugar barons are lobbying hard at every level. Informed sources say that an influential minister in the government also recently visited Kerala and held meetings with two Kerala MLAs who are in favour of the project.