Wildlife Board clears Hubballi-Ankola rail project

Wildlife Board clears controversial Hubballi-Ankola rail project

Making a strong pitch for ‘development’ than retaining forest cover amidst debate over climate change, the state government on Friday gave its nod for the controversial Hubballi-Ankola Railway project worth Rs 3,749 crore.

With the approval, Karnataka is all set to lose about 1.78 lakh trees in the biodiversity-rich Western Ghats of Uttara Kannada district. Surprisingly, the government cleared the project reportedly based on the report by the scientists of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc).

Ironically, the same scientists, using advanced techniques, had cautioned about the frequent degradation and rapid change in the land use pattern in the forest-rich Uttara Kannada district.

Determined to clear the project, which was previously rejected by several statutory bodies, including SC-appointed CEC, the state government had convened the the Wildlife Board meeting on Friday. Much to the surprise of many, the Wildlife Board, in the absence of several of its members, including the Forest minister Anand Singh, cleared the project. According to sources privy to the meeting, only five out of the 13 members of the Wildlife Board were present during the meeting and there were more non-members during the meeting.

Despite the members apprising CM B S Yediyurappa of the irreparable loss and ecological damage to the region, BSY reportedly replied to the members, “All of you have given your opinion and explanation. But leaders from the North Karnataka have been telling that the project would help develop the region. Let’s send it to the Centre and they will look into it.” The meeting was attended by Industries minister Jagadish Shettar, Labour and Sugar minister Shivaram Hebbar, former minister RV Deshpande among others.

The project, spanning 168 km, is only a step away from achieving a reality. Following the approval, the Prime Minister headed National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) will take up the project for approval.

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