Tinaighat-Caranzol rail line set for animal overpasses

Saving Wildlife: Tinaighat-Caranzol rail line set for animal overpasses

The IISc report maps both the presence of animals, reptiles, amphibians as well as the points where they cross the rail line

New structures are to be built for protecting the wildlife crossing the railway line on the 18-km Tinaighat-Castle Rock-Caronzol section. Credit: Special Arrangement

Animal overpasses and underpasses, tunnels, level crossings, new bridges are some of the 72 new structures to be built for protecting the wildlife crossing the railway line on the 18-km Tinaighat-Castle Rock-Caronzol section, which is part of the 352-km Hosapete-Vasco Da Gama (Goa) line-doubling project.

Doubling of the 37-km section from Tinaighat to Kulem has been mired in controversy, especially the 19-km stretch of the line in Goa (Caranzol-Kulem), which required felling of 18,000 trees on 296 acres of land, including 123-acre forest land.

The Rail Vikas Nigam Limited, which is taking up the project, got clearance from the Goa government last year for working on a 19-km stretch. The remaining 18-km stretch in Karnataka from Tinaighat to Castle Rock has become a sensitive issue, as it passes through Kali Tiger Reserve. 

Studies by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) documented 24 species of amphibians, of which 14 were endemic to Western Ghats, 27 species of reptiles and five mammal species, including tigers and leopards, through camera traps along the track. 

The IISc report maps both the presence of animals, reptiles, amphibians as well as the points where they cross the rail line. 

After the National Board of Wildlife gave its clearance for the project earlier this month, the Regional Expert Committee of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change is set to take up the issue of diverting about 26 acres of forest land for the 18-km line within Karnataka on Wednesday.

Sources in RVNL said once the land is handed over, doubling the entire 37-km ghat section would be completed in five years. "The land requirement in Karnataka is less due to the flat surface. We have looked at the recommendations of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and will implement all the measures once we get clearance," the source said.

While the Karnataka portion requires felling of 57 trees, the damage on the Goa side of the border is huge, with over 18,000 trees set to make way. Officials, however, said they are trying to save the trees by increasing the length of the tunnel. "It is estimated that the number of trees to be cut will come down by 1,000," a source said.

Dhanajai Mohan, WII Director, told DH that proposing mitigation measures for railways was more challenging compared with highways.

"Gradation and curves of rail infrastructure have to be considered. We worked with the railways to ensure that our mitigation plans are both effective and practical," he said.

Amrut S Singh Bicholim, wildlife activist and member of Goa's wildlife board, said they will continue to oppose the project.

"Officials gave clearance for the project without calling us for the meeting. We have already written to the Supreme Court regarding this," he said.