It is to expand the existing highway leading to Ooty
The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has sought clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) for diversion of 24 acres of forests in Bandipur to expand the existing highway cutting through tiger reserve that connects to Ooty in Tamil Nadu.
The move has riled wildlife activists and environmentalists because the sub-committee on framing guidelines for roads in protected areas recommended in 2013 that the status quo of the roads passing through national parks and core critical tiger habitats “shall remain the same” and should be maintained or repaired in their “current form and width”. As per the ESZ notification for Bandipur dated October 4, 2012, widening of roads comes under regulated category and can be done provided there was a proper Environment Impact Assessment besides mitigatory measures.
Guruprasad Timmapur of Wildlife Matters said the project will further fragment Bandipur, which is one of the best protected tiger habitats in the country. “Two highways pass through Bandipur Tiger Reserve (NH-181 and NH-766) and the one proposed to be widened mostly caters to tourists travelling to Ooty and other areas. This highway already has a huge impact on wildlife by obstructing movement of animals, mortality of wildlife due to vehicular accidents, impact on wildlife behaviour, and pollution due to waste and noise,” said Mr. Timmapur.
The highway cutting through Bandipur also passes through Mudumalai Tiger Reserve and hence, wildlife activists suspect that the project was being split to smaller bits and NHAI was bound to seek expansion of the stretch passing through Mudumalai in future.
Drawing attention to the frequent accidents that led to the deaths of several wildlife species including tiger, elephant, leopard, chital, sambar, barking deer, langur, rusty-spotted cat, etc. on the highways that pass through Bandipur, Mr. Timmapur said the High Court of Karnataka had ordered closure of roads at night for vehicular movement barring emergency vehicles and 16 public transport buses.
Places like Bandipur merely form 1% of the country’s geographical area and this proposed high expansion should not be permitted at any cost and the current laws and guidelines also do not allow for widening of this highway, he added.
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