Centre says no to highways through wildlife sanctuaries
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Centre says no to highways through wildlife sanctuaries

June 16, 2019

A full stop to Kerala’s efforts to revoke the night ban on traffic through Bandipur Tiger Reserve

Bengaluru: The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) that had proposed to build an elevated highway through Bandipur Tiger Reserve a few months ago, has made a sudden U-turn on its stand. Going a step further, the Ministry, in a communication to all the State Governments last week, has directed authorities to ‘avoid any road alignment through national parks and sanctuaries.’

The decision of the MoRTH comes at a time when Karnataka is fighting against Kerala’s efforts to revoke the night ban on traffic through Bandipur Tiger Reserve. Karnataka introduced a ban on night traffic through Bandipur in 2009 on the National Highway (NH) 766 cutting through the Tiger Reserve in Chamarajanagar. Traffic is banned on the Highway from 9 pm to 6 am to avoid road kills and reduce disturbance to wildlife.

The Ministry has asked States as well as National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to avoid building highways through wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, unless absolutely unavoidable. “To have minimum impact of highways on the protected eco-sensitive area, the implementing agency should consider sparing sanctuaries/national parks at the planning stage and wherever possible taking a bypass/detour,” the Ministry said.

The circular has been issued to NHAI, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL), Border Roads Organisation and States. It said all necessary clearances should be obtained before constructing highways in such areas.

The Ministry said earlier also it had issued guidelines to avoid roads through wildlife sanctuaries, even if it required taking a longer route. The circular also directed the State Governments and other agencies entrusted with the development of roads to abide by the manual prepared by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.

According to experts, the circular will go a long way in safeguarding forests. For Karnataka too, the circular comes as a shot in the arm, which will help counter repeated pressure tactics from the Kerala government to widen roads through Bandipur Tiger Reserve and also open it for night traffic.

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“Development of national highways is essential for economic growth. However, alignment of highways through natural areas may have wide-ranging impact on ecology and wild species. The implementing agency should consider sparing sanctuaries or national parks at the planning stage itself,” the circular added.

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