New Delhi: The Union Ministry of Road Transport and National Highways has agreed to consider alternative routes to connect between Gundlupet and Sulthan Batheri in Kerala instead of NH-212 (now NH 766) which passes through Bandipur Tiger Reserve.
The Ministry has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court yesterday saying that State Highway-90 (Hunsur-Talacauvery) and State Highway-89 (Madikeri-Kutta) in Karnataka and Thalassery-Bavali (district road) and Kattikkulam-Tholpetty (district road) in Kerala can be developed as alternatives.
A joint Committee of experts comprising officials of Ministry of Environment and Forests and National Tiger Conservation Authority suggested these routes.
The Ministry has put the onus on the State Governments of Karnataka and Kerala to develop the State Highways and district roads so that the National Highway running inside the Tiger Reserve is left undisturbed.
The Apex Court had in an earlier hearing given the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate four weeks to file an affidavit. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways was also given an opportunity for the same.
The petition is filed by private transporters who are challenging the ban on night traffic inside Bandipur forest. The Ministry has said that the various Departments have identified State Highways 90 and 89 in Karnataka and State Highway 59 and MDR-002 (Major District Road) and MDR-001 in Kerala as alternative routes for NH-212.
Though interior roads in Karnataka (Hunsur-Talacauvery and Madikeri-Kutta) have already been developed as State Highways with two lanes, Kerala is yet to develop the districts roads Thalassery-Bavali and Kattikkulam-Tholpetty as State Highways with two lanes, the Centre said.
The Kerala Government has to upgrade its two district roads as State Highways at its own expenditure including getting necessary clearances from statutory institutions and meeting land acquisition costs. Once these stretches are developed as State Highways by the State Government, then entire alternative routes can be declared as National Highways, said the Ministry.
The Bench of Justices R.F. Nariman and S. Ravindra Bhat gave six weeks’ time to all the parties including Kerala and Karnataka to respond to the proposal by the Centre.