KARNATAKA WILDLIFE BOARD OPPOSES PROPOSED HUBBALLI-ANKOLA RAIL LINE
Context: The controversial Hubballi-Ankola railway line project, which came up for discussion at the State Board for Wildlife meeting saw stiff opposition from a majority of the board members.
- The proposed rail project entails large-scale destruction of forests, including the felling of nearly 2.2 lakh fully grown trees in a biodiversity hotspot
- The project, which was announced in 1997, has met with stiff opposition at all levels.
- It was rejected by the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Environment and Forests had opposed it, and even the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had rejected it twice on the grounds that the damage rendered by such a linear project through pristine forests could not be mitigated and the adverse affect on flora and fauna would be irreversible.
ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS REGARDING THE RAIL PROJECT
- The proposed rail line from Kirwatti to Y junction near Ankola goes through ecologically very valuable forests.
- Between Kirwatti and Yellapur, it is moist deciduous forests with annual rainfall varying from 1,200 to 1,800 mm.
- The proposed alignment from Yellapur to Sunksal is through steep rising hills and valleys with altitude ranging from 150 to 450 metres above sea level and rainfall varying from 1,800 to 2,500 mm.
- The track comprises of wonderful evergreen and semi-evergreen forests of endemic tree species such as Myristica malabarica, Polyaalthia fragrans, Cinnamomum macrocarpum, Holigarna graham and Hopea ponga, etc.
- The last 30-km stretch between Sunksal and Ankola is in the foothills of the Western Ghats and is also hilly, with altitude varying from 18 to 150 metres above sea level, and is dominated by secondary moist deciduous forests and semi-evergreen forests
- More than 80% the line has to pass through the dense forest lands of the Western Ghats, and this entails the diversion of 727 hectares of prime forests.
- According to a railway document, the total land required is 995.64 hectares, including 595.64 hectares of forest land, 184.6 hectares of wetland, and 190 hectares of dryland.
- It was also identified that elephants moving out of Dandeli Sanctuary pass through Bhagwati, Kalghatgi, Kirwatti, Mundgod, Katur and go up to Hangal. The proposed rail line would pass through the region and fragment the corridor and pose a threat of t pose a threat of train hits and loss of property and lives of humans and livestock.
- Unplanned developmental activities have altered the catchment integrity, threatening the regional water security and converting perennial streams into seasonal ones.
- Recent climatic catastrophes in Kerala and Kodagu and the 2009 flood in Karwar have sent enough warnings and we should take lesson from it.