Centre derails Kerala's rly line plan through forests

Lobbying hard for rail and road projects through state’s forests, Kerala suffered yet another set back with the Centre ‘setting aside’ the Thalaserry-Periyapatna (Mysuru) railway project.

The Railway ministry has reportedly directed the Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL) to sort out forest clearance issues, before presenting the project for consideration.

Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain, in a written reply to a query from Mullapally Ramachandran in the Lok Sabha recently on the status of the rail project, said, “The KRDCL has been advised to sort out the issues of forest clearances and alignment with all stakeholders, including the Karnataka government and thereafter, update the report for appropriate consideration of the proposed new line.”

The minister said the Kerala government, through KRDCL (a joint venture company of the Kerala government and the Railways) had prepared a feasibility report in January 2018, without any survey on the ground. He said, “There was no assessment of the impact of the railway line in the forest zone involving fragile ecosystem and protected forest areas and sanctuaries. The local people have also been agitating against the proposed alignment passing through Karnataka.”

Despite the stiff opposition from the people of Karnataka, especially in Kodagu, the Kerala government had ordered preparation of DPR of Thalaserry-Mysuru railway line on a cost-sharing basis between the Railways and KRDCL.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had ordered the survey for the project. The 240-km-long railway line was planned at a cost of Rs 5,052 crore, through Kutta, Kanoor, Balele and Thithimathi in Kodagu district, cutting through thick evergreen forests.

While a 49-km stretch passes through the forests of Kerala, about 35 km of the stretch passes through the ecologically sensitive areas of Karnataka, including 11 km through the Nagarahole tiger reserve.

The Railway ministry’s latest stand on the project has come as a relief to conservationists opposing the project. Previously, Kerala had been lobbying for revoking of the ban on night traffic through Bandipur tiger reserve. However, recently the Centre made it clear that it will not help pursue Kerala’s plan.

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Centre derails Kerala's rly line plan through forests

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