In Karnataka, two roads have been closed at Night times.
1. The Mysore Mananthavaadi Highway (Kabini) through Nagarhole
2. The road cutting through Bandipur (to Ooty and to Sulthan Bathery).
The solution is not in closing the roads especially in the absence of alternate roads. There has to be a way to curtail speed of vehicles passing through. Also the drivers have to be educated first, warned subsequently and punished severly for repeated violations.
Closing the road at nites does open up new issues which the authorities do not consider.
Few issues are:
1. Vehicles reach entry points in the evening especially the ones that come early bribe the guards and go thro the park, creating income opportunities for forest guards and officials.
2. Other vehicles all queue up in the nite. The drivers and cleaners all team up to form a club to play cards and booze creating an opportunity at the edge of a protected area, while waiting for the park gate to open in the morning. They also create a market for venison and other forest meat to be served to them while they are spending the nite near the forest.
3. When the gate opens in the morning at 6 am, there is a sudden rush of trucks and vehicles trying to overtake each other. Sometimes the queue of vehicles are so long that the animals cannot use/cross the road for few hours. Large mammals and cats are still active in the mornings. So whats the point in allowing the traffic at 6 am if they cannot be allowed in the nite?
The correct way of doing it is to build speed barriers and constant monitoring and education. The forest officials are incapable of doing these things. The easiest is for them to close the park and inconvenience common man.Closing the highway is against the principles outlined in the Indian Wildlife Protection Act. The Act gives right-of-way to humans on roads cutting through parks.
Recently the government closed the MM Road through kabini between 6PM and 6AM based on complaints and representations filed by NGOs, conservationists etc. Subsequently the CEC and the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India made it an order to close the road in the nite. The orders were based on CEC inspection and facts provided by NGOs and Conservationists on animal deaths on this particular road. Under RTI, I applied to the PCCF of Karnataka and asked him to provide me with the details of all animal deaths on MM road for the last 10 years. To my surprise I found that the forest department had record for only one death of a spotted deer that too at 10.00 am in the morning!!!
All the claims of conservationists that tigers and elephants were found dead on Mysore Mananthavaadi Highway is false. This means that have provided wrong information to the authorities. How come the forest department has no record of any death on this road?
I have a letter signed by the DCF of the park (nagarhole) and subsequently sent to me by the Chief Wildlife Warden that except a spotted deer, no animal has been killed on that road for the last 10 years.
Protection of wildlife is important. At the same time economic development of society is also important. There has to be a harmonious balance. It cannot be at the cost of one of them.The issue of traffic cutting through bandipur has got nothing to do with night time. Even during the day time the vehicles go very fast. What do you do then?
I have noticed that tourist traffic on bandipur highway often mixes booze and high speeds especially when they cut through forest areas. Even the Jeeps belonging to the DCF, ACF and RFOs do not maintain speed limits in Bandipur, even during day time (I have video recordings of department jeeps plying at high speeds)The truth is our Forest officials and police are incapable of containing these speeds even during the day. Therefore the easiest is to close the road in the night and make it safe for smugglers and poachers to operate peacefully without the fear of getting noticed by some responsible, passing vehicle that may put an end to their activities.