The indefinite Hunger strike to reopen the stretch inside the Bandipur Tiger reserve for night traffic has been called off at Sultan Bathery in Wayanad after the Kerala Government’s assurance. Though withdrawn, the agitation has raised many an eye brow over the sanctity of the wild life and protection of wildlife, which the environmentalists and wildlife experts feel could be jeopardised once the ban is withdrawn.
The Supreme Court has directed the Centre o see if a complete ban of the stretch could be possible by looking at alternative routes. All the political fronts in the state had expressed their solidarity with the agitators who wanted to reinstate the traffic in the stretch of Bandipur Reserve of the Kozhikode- Kollengal National Highway.
Despite protests in Wayanad, the environmentalists have come out in strong support of the ban and opined that the status quo should continue. However, some of them said total ban of traffic in the stretch should have wider discussion as it involved a social issue. “As it involves certain social aspects, a complete ban should be widely discussed. There is no doubt that night ban should continue,” environmentalist Ravi Chalukudy told Indian flash.
On invoking total ban, he said that it was not advisable as it related to certain social issues. “Already some people are against the forest department and also against wild life. Once a total ban is imposed, it could have adverse impact. So my opinion is that night ban should continue. But at the same time, the government could think of bringing in more restrictions on day time traffic. May be traffic could be regulated through convoy system and like that.
With respect to alternative routes, Ravi said that it was not at a practical solution as these routes also went through forest areas, where wild life movement was seen in large numbers.
Environment activist C M Joy was also of the opinion that a total ban was not advisable but restrictions should be imposed in day time traffic also. “Night ban should continue. Already we have brought in much destruction to our environment,” he said.
He also opined that any issue related to environment should not be decided but a minority but the opinion of the majority should be taken into account. “There is no need to change the existing situation because a group of people had protested,” he said.
The environmentalists also asked if any one would think of destroying a historic monument and building a high way. “The environment is our wealth. Once we start to destroy them, the impact can be seen. This is what Kerala had been witnessing for a long time in the way of floods and landslides. No one should ever forget this,” they said.
Even though the agitation for the revoking the ban has not completely slowed down, it would be better to look at the data released by the Karnataka government on the incidents of accidents involving animals inside the reserve forest. Before the night ban came into force about ten years ago, the data says that about 50 incidents of accidents were reported. But after the ban came into effect, the incidents have come down to ten in the last decade.
The agitation began by a group of local people, who claimed that their livelihood was affected because of the ban. They claimed that the highway through bandipur was their only link to Karnataka.
It was in 2009 that night ban was imposed by the Chamarajanagar district administration. The ban was imposed after the reserve officials submitted a report on the incidents of accidents in the stretch. In the report, it was also said that the biological behaviour of teh animals also had a drastic change because of heavy traffic in the stretch. However, this was challenged by some people and the lift was revoked. However, some others went to the Karnataka High Court against revoking the ban and the ban was reinstated by the High Court. In 2010, the ban came into force.