Hubballi: A seven-member central experts’ committee constituted by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) to study the feasibility of the proposed Hubbali-Ankola Railway line project conducted consultation with stakeholders in Hubballi on Thursday.
During the consultation, trade and industry bodies favoured the project, while green activists, including retired officers from the forest department, opposed the project, claiming that it would cause massive damage to the ecosystem of the Western Ghats.
The trade and industry bodies claimed that the project would boost the development of not only Uttar Kannada but the entire North Karnataka, including Kalyan Karnataka. They also requested the members of the committee that the project be implemented at the earliest. While green activists opposed the project tooth and nail and requested that the project not take off as it would cause irreversible damage to the Western Ghats.
Congress leader Vasant Ladawa requested that the project be implemented at the earliest, as the project failed to take-off just because a few people spread false, unscientific, and far from truthful information about the project. The 168 km project stalled and only 48 km of track was laid so far, mainly because of false information being spread that in the Yallapur area 727 hectares of forest would be destroyed for the project, which is totally wrong, he said and added that this project requires only 138 hectares of forest land. Because 105 kilometres of railway line pass through plain areas with no forest, 20 kilometres pass through tunnels, and 20 kilometres pass through bald mountains, only 23 kilometres of railway line require forest land, so we calculate 23 kilometres multiplied by 60 meters, and the project requires 138 hectares, not 727 hectares, he said.
He claimed that the Uttar Kannada district has a forest cover of 81%. He said that if one percent of this land were used for development projects that would benefit a large population, then there would be no major loss to the environment or fauna of that region. He added that the railway line would be electric, so the impact on the environment from pollution would be nil, he said.
Businessman VSV Prasad and HDDF’s Jagadish Hiremath spoke in favour of the project and urged that this project should begin at the earliest for the betterment of the people of North Karnataka.
The stakeholders in favour of the project said that every day, heavy vehicles carrying goods ply on the Hubballi-Ankola road. Because of the high density of vehicles and traffic, more accidents are happening on the ghats, and the people of the coast have no other option to connect with other parts of Kalyan Karnataka other than by road, hence the project should be implemented.
BJ Hosamath, retired PCCF, stated that the project was rejected based on very solid scientific data, that it is a biodiversity hotspot, that it is a very fragile landscape, and that if the project goes forward, it will be like injecting systematic poison into a healthy person, and it will devastate the entire landscape, and he urged that this project be scrapped once and for all. Other environmentalists also endorsed the views of Hosmath and demanded that this project not happen.
Highcourt advocate, Akshay Kolle, submitted a detailed representation to the committee via Karwar DC yesterday (Wednesday) and presented a few other points in the meeting today that he missed out on yesterday. According to the representation he shared with the media, he said the allegation that the Hubli Ankola New Railway Line passes through Kali Tiger Reserve and the Default Eco-Sensitive Zone is factually incorrect, HARP does not pass through Kali Tiger Reserve, the default eco-sensitive zone, nor does it interfere with Hornbill Conservation Reserve, nor with Bedthi Conservation Reserve, nor with Elephant Corridor, and it does not fall within the scope of Sec 38(O)(g) of the Wildlife Act.
He also requested to grant permission for the diversion of 595ha of forest land as applied for by the User Agency–South Western Railway, Hubballi.
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