BackgroundFrom August 8th, the Supreme Court upheld the ban that extends from 9 PM to 6 AM and also issued a notice to the authorities to find alternate travel routes. The reason being, the court issued this order to avoid the Protected Areas (PA) altogether. This decision resulted in unending protests in Wayanad ever since as citizens are alarmed by a complete cut-off from the area. Some may also be threatened economically as the highway extends essential services for them to provide. It sure is a matter of distress for the citizens if there is a permanent highway traffic constraint.
Rahul Gandhi's TakeA major controversy surrounds this travel restriction. Rahul Gandhi, Member of Parliament of the Wayanad Constituency stands in full support of the youth who've been protesting. He said “I am confident a compromising solution can be reached where the people of Wayanad benefit and the environment is also protected. This has been achieved in other parts of the country, and I am sure it can be achieved here as well.”
The Voice of the YouthA member of the youth movement, KG Sudheesha said “In Wayanad, you have to understand that apart from NH 766, all other roads are Ghat roads or mountainous roads and become dangerous during the rainy season. This road is the backbone of Wayanad and, if it is closed, we will have no access to essential medical services, since there are no other means of transportation from this region to the rest of the country.”
The StrategySudheesha added “We are planning to challenge the Supreme Court’s decision with an intervening petition. If we receive an unfavourable verdict again, the people of Wayanad will be escalating the protests and completely shutting off this road until our issues are addressed.”
The citizens are demanding the construction of elevated corridor across the affected section of the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in addition to the revocation to the traffic ban.
Environmentalists' TakeEnvironmentalists and conservationists have raised concerns over the elevated corridor and the traffic ban. According to Environmentalists of Kerala and Karnataka, developments in the region are alarming for the biodiversity.
MD Madhusudan, a Bengaluru-based researcher and former member of the National Wildlife Board (NWB), shared his views on the same. He said that “For me what is at stake here is the larger principle based on which protected areas (PA) are designated. The idea behind creating a PA, according to the National Wildlife Plan, issued by the environment ministry, is to harmonise these areas with other aspects such as growth and development. We have decided that there are some areas in our country that are repositories of a natural heritage that we don’t want to lose. To keep them as they are, we have decided that priorities that affect other non-protected regions such as infrastructure for growth, etc., need not be prioritised here as well. It is a system of avoidance to preserve these areas.”
5% of India's landmass lies under the Protected area zone. Madhusudan added that “You have to understand that even if this 5% of the landmass is completely destroyed for development, there will still be challenges. The elevated corridor will not solve your problems and so if you decide to cut down forests even within these protected areas for an elevated corridor and state that somehow this already minimum landmass is a hindrance to development and progress, it then goes against the spirit of why you have protected areas at all in the first place,”
Importance of The Bandipur Tiger ReserveThe tiger reserve holds a population of around 382 tigers close to one-eight of the wild population of tigers. The reserve holds great importance being the largest home of the Asiatic Elephants in the world - the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve.
While the conservationists oppose the building of elevated corridors, the government of Kerala stands in full support of the move. What move is finally initiated in the region, only time can tell.
What are your views on the removal of the travel ban and the building of elevated corridors? Share your comments below!
Image sourced from DNA India