The issue of the night-traffic ban and a proposed railway line between Kerala and Karnataka through the Bandipur National Park has once again reared its head after reports stated that the Kerala government was undertaking a survey and the Karnataka government was considering an increase in the duration of the ban to 12 hours from the current 9 hours, after the death of an elephant that was hit by a truck.
At present, vehicles are not allowed on the stretch between 9 PM and 6 AM. If the proposal comes into effect, the ban would last from 6 PM to 6 AM.
The railway line being planned would connect Nilambur in Kerala to Nanjangud in Karnataka via Wayanad.
While a section of people in Wayanad, including its MP Rahul Gandhi, want night-traffic to be restored for a variety of reasons like decline in tourism from Karnataka and difficulties in transport of agricultural produce, the Karnataka government and environmentalists have opposed the move citing the threat to wildlife.
They say that people from Kerala could easily take the alternative route, passing through Hunsur-Gonicoppa-Kutta-Katikulam, during the night.
Further, they add that the night-traffic ban has actually helped reduce the number of deaths of wild animals. According to a report by Deccan Herald, the number of deaths reduced from 93 during 2004-09 in the pre-ban period to 34 during 2010-18, after the ban was enforced.
There have also been allegations that the protests in Wayanad were supported by the groups with vested interests like those involved in smuggling of gold, electronics, hawala transactions and wildlife trafficking.
The Supreme Court ruled in favour of Karnataka in 2019 on the issue and asked the Centre to suggest alternative routes so that the route could be shut down permanently.
A calm assessment of facts suggest they tilt towards Karnataka's stance on the issue. While some adjustments could be considered for emergencies; allowing night-traffic through the highway, especially because it falls in the core area, would defeat the purpose of declaring the area a national park.
While humans do need to travel, animals need their space too.
S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.
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