Decision on Hubballi-Ankola rail project deferred

The State Wildlife Board on Wednesday deferred its decision on Hubballi-Ankola railway project “indefinitely.” The proposed rail line passes through the evergreen forests of Uttara Kannada.

The 11th meeting of the State Wildlife Board had triggered a controversy as the government had convened it in a hush-hush manner to approve the project. Conservationists from various parts of the state had rallied against the project and had even petitioned AICC president Rahul Gandhi about the perilous effects of the proposed rail line.

Sources in the state wildlife board revealed to DH that the matter was taken up for discussion for over an hour and Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy patiently sat through the presentation.

‘Deferred indefinitely’

“The chief minister was explained about the damage likely to be caused by the project and about other alternatives. With the majority members in the Board opposing the project, the decision on the matter was deferred indefinitely,” said a member of the Board requesting anonymity.

Giridhar Kulkarni, a conservationist who had submitted objections to the Board said, “The diversion of 595.64 hectares of evergreen forests especially the forest within the Kali Tiger Reserve will not only wipe out rare flora and fauna but affect the flow of water from several rivulets creating an ecological imbalance. The state government had violated all the norms in its zeal to get the clearance for the project. It was even rapped by the centre and National Tiger Conservation Authority for bypassing the state board and directly submitting the proposal to the centre. Recently, the railway minister too had turned down the project citing environmental destruction. Yet, the government was intensely lobbying for the project.”

Rs 10 lakh compensation

Amidst reports of increasing man-animal conflict across the state with several people being killed the state wildlife board cleared a proposal to hike the compensation to the deceased person from the existing Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh.  Even though the forest department was not in favour of increasing the compensation, the wildlife board members urged CM Kumaraswamy to increase the compensation and CM cleared the proposal.

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