Hubballi-Ankola rail line: HC asks to assess impact

Hubballi-Ankola rail line: Karnataka HC tells National Wildlife Board to assess impact

Meanwhile, Railway Seva Samithi, Uttara Kannada, an intervener in the PILs, supported the project

Representative Image. Credit: iStock Photo

The high court on Wednesday directed the National Wildlife Board to independently assess the impact on the wildlife by the proposed broad-gauge railway line between Hubballi and Ankola.

A division bench, comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Sachin Shankar Magadum, passed this order while hearing a batch of PILs challenging the wildlife clearance for the project.

One of the petitions contended that the State Wildlife Board, in its 14th meeting, recommended the construction of a new 168-km broad
gauge line.

The petitioners said the project would lead to the diversion of 595.64 hectares of forest land and an estimated 2.2 lakh trees would have to be cut for the project.

On June 18, 2021, the court had passed an interim order halting the diversion of forest land in Karwar, Yellapur and Dharwad for the construction of the railway line.

“We understand that development work has to be carried out. However, we have to assess the impact on the wildlife and the endeavour should be to protect the wildlife. In order to find out the impact of this development project on wildlife, we direct the National Board for Wildlife to carry out a survey over the area involved in the project and make an assessment of the effect of laying down of the Hubballi-Ankola broad-gauge rail line in the forest area involved over the wildlife,” the bench said.

The court has directed the National Wildlife Board to make an independent assessment and said it may involve experts in making the assessment.

According to the petitioner, the project area falls within the Kali tiger reserve or Anshi-Dandeli tiger reserve, an eco-sensitive zone in the Western Ghats.

The petitioners said that, in the 13th meeting, the state board had resolved to reject the proposal. However, in the next meeting, held 11 days later on March 20, 2020, it was resolved to recommend the project and submit it to the national board.

Meanwhile, Railway Seva Samithi, Uttara Kannada, an intervener in the PILs, supported the project.

Quoting a statement by the then minister of state for railways in August 2017, the counsel for the intervener said the project area does not fall within the protected area such as national park, wildlife sanctuary or tiger reserve.