The night-long ban on vehicular movement through the 30km Bandipur forest road in southwest Karnataka would continue, said state Chief Minister H.D. Kumaraswamy on Friday. “The night ban on movement of vehicles through Bandipur forest area from 9 p.m to 6 a.m will continue as before,” Kumaraswamy told reporters here. The Chief Minister’s Office also clarified that there was no proposal to build an elevated road through the forest for vehicular traffic towards Kerala. “There’s no change in the state government’s stand on night ban on vehicles, and construction of an elevated road through the forest is not feasible,” reiterated Kumaraswamy.
The assertion and clarification came a day after a local media report alleged that the state government had agreed to lift the night ban on vehicles, especially buses and trucks, as sought by the Kerala government through the Central government. Citing a letter from Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways Secretary Y.S. Malik, the report said the Chief Minister and state Public Works Department (PWD) Minister H.D. Revanna had recently agreed to lift the night ban as sought by the neighbouring Kerala state.
Revanna is the elder brother of Kumaraswamy and both are sons of former Prime Minister and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) supremo H.D. Deve Gowda. Vehicular movement has been banned since 2009 for nine hours from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m in the forest area to prevent road mishaps, man-animal conflict and to protect wildlife on both sides of the Karnataka-Kerala border.
Attempts by the Kerala government and the transport lobby to lift the night ban has failed over the years after the Karnataka High Court banned it and the Supreme Court upheld it subsequently. Outraged by the reported consent on lifting the ban, conservationists, activists and wildlife experts took to the social media since Thursday and initiated an online campaign for continuation of the ban.
Earlier in the day, state Forest and Environment Minister R. Shankar told reporters at Mysuru, about 150km from here, the state government would maintain status quo to protect wild animals from air and noise pollution. “We will not buckle under the pressure of Kerala or central government to lift the night ban as man has no right to endanger the life of animals or disturb their fragile ecosystem,” Shankar told reporters.