UPSC PRELIMS 2020: Wayanad Protest

waynand protest

Topic: Wayanad Protest

Topic in Syllabus: Ecology & Environment

waynand protest

Context:

Over the last one week, Kerala’s Wayanad district has witnessed a series of protests against a ban on night trac on the forest stretch of NH 766, a key highway between Karnataka and Kerala that passes through the Manipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka.

The immediate trigger for the current agitation was a recent Supreme Court direction to the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change and the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to suggest alternative routes so that NH 766 could be shut down permanently.

Court judgement:

In 2010, the court upheld the night trac ban.

  • The court observed that it is important to protect interest of wildlife. There is the need to protect the interest of the public, who are daily commuters and traders.
  • Court directed authorities to use an alternative road, that is 35 km longer than travelling through NH 766.
  • Kerala’s suggestion for an elevated highway through the forest reserve was turned down by the ministry.

Impact of Night Ban:

  • Before the ban, the stretch was reporting 100-odd animal deaths in accidents, but now it has come down to ve to ten.
  • If the highway is opened, fatalities would increase manifold.

Reasons behind the Protest:

  • On August 8, the Supreme Court upheld the night trac ban, which was supported by Karnataka and Tamil Nadu while Kerala wanted it lifted.
  • The protest in Wayanad, which picked up with the hunger-strike starting September 25, is backed by all political parties in Kerala, religious organisations, traders and youth organisations.
  • People fear that a blanket ban on trac would impact the economic development of Wayanad.
  • With 150-odd registered resorts and hundreds of homestay facilities, Wayanad has emerged as a major hill destination, catering tourists from Bengaluru.
  • NH 766 is a major link between Kerala and the rest of the country.
  • The alternative road is 35 km away, which would cost time and money besides raising prices of commodities.

About Bandipur Tiger Reserve: Bandipur Tiger Reserve is part of interconnected forests that include Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary (Tamil Nadu), Wayanad

Wildlife Sanctuary (Kerala) and Nagarhole National Park (Karnataka).: A large variety of wildlife including the elephant moves from one stretch to another, cutting the states.  Bandipur is one of the oldest tiger reserves in the country, having been declared as such in 1973 and a national park in 1984.

Indian Policy for Highway through Forest:

  • National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), the apex advisory body to the central government on all wildlife-related matters, said no to new roads through protected forests, but was open to the widening of existing roads with adequate mitigation measures irrespective of the cost, only if alternative alignments were not available.
  • The NBWL made it mandatory for every road/rail project proposal to include a wildlife passage plan as per guidelines framed by Wildlife Institute of India, an autonomous wildlife research body under the Environment Ministry.

Impacts of Highway through Forest area:

  • Highway stretches passing through forests cause severe fragmentation of habitats. This disruption of ecological connectivity curtails or restricts gene ow that is crucial for sustaining healthy wildlife populations and ecosystems.
  • Highway creates new edges that are highly vulnerable to re and incursion by pernicious weeds.
  • They attract ancillary developmental activities.
  • They provide poachers and timber smugglers an easy access to the forest

Future Planning:

  • The apex court held that our approach to development should be eco-centric, rather than focussing only on what is good for humans.
  • As for existing highways through forests, particularly those for which bypasses are absolutely not feasible, we need to retrot them with state-of-the-art, science-based solutions for minimising road kills.
  • Carefully conceived underpasses, overpasses, yovers and canopy bridges, which take animal behaviour and traditional wildlife movement patterns into consideration, can help provide a safe passage for animals.
  • Exemplary work done on the Trans-Canada Highway passing through Banff National Park, where an 80 per cent reduction in large mammal deaths is achieved, thanks to its extensive system of wildlife underpasses and overpasses that act as guide.
  • There is a need to plan Smart Highways that will traverse the country with the least disturbance to our last remaining natural habitats.
  • By making use of all the sophisticated mapping technology at our disposal today, it is possible to ensure roads are clear of wildlife areas.

Sample Question:

Where has the India’s first specialised hydrotherapy treatment for elephants suffering from arthritis, joint pain and foot ailments been opened ?

(a) Jorhat, Assam

(b) Bangalore, Karnataka

(c) Mathura, Uttar Pradesh

(d) Wayanad, Kerala

Answer: c