Wildlife Board may clear Ankola railway line on Jan 9

A verdant land along the Western Ghats through which Hubballi-Ankola Railway line will pass through.

The state government’s hush-hush decision to hold the meeting of the State Wildlife Board on Wednesday (January 9) has set off fresh controversy in the conservation circles of the state.

The meeting may breathe life into controversial projects like Hubballi-Ankola rail connectivity that were ‘rejected’ by the Centre.

The meeting of the Board will be the first to be held after the JD(S)-Congress government came to power. Invitations have been sent out to all Board members.

Sources in the Forest department told DH that the meeting had been called to approve the controversial Hubballi-Ankola railway project which was rejected twice by the National Tiger Conservatory Authority (NTCA) twice and sent back to the state by the MoEF&CC, besides giving consent to other controversial projects.

11th meeting

According to the agenda circulated among the Board members and accessed by DH, the 11th meeting of the Board will deliberate on the Hubballi-Ankola Railway project that would cut through biodiversity rich and ecologically sensitive Western Ghats area, jeopardising the Kali tiger reserve in Uttara Kannada district. However, the government’s decision to hold the meeting, reportedly at the behest of a few senior IFS officers, has evoked bitter criticism among conservationists.

“The NTCA, which carried out the field inspection twice as suggested by MoEF&CC along with experts, recommended scrapping of the project. Determined to pursue the project, the government submitted a proposal to the Centre without obtaining the approval of the State Wildlife Board, a clear violation of the SC verdict in the case of Lafarge project in Meghalaya.

The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) too rapped the state government for bypassing the State Wildlife Board in its zeal to push for the project.

Recently, Railway minister Piyush Goel said it was impossible to implement the project, citing environmental reasons. Despite these responses, if the government still wants to pursue the project, it only suggests that there is some vested interest,” said a conservationist from Bengaluru.

595.64 ha of forest

B K Singh, former PCCF and chief wildlife warden, said the project would require diversion of 595.64 hectares of evergreen forest.

“The railway project is more of a contractors-driven project and is not a requirement for anybody. A whopping two lakh trees will have to be axed for the project, besides affecting the drainage pattern rivulets. The project will pave the way for recent Kodagu and Kerala-type disasters in the region,” he explained.

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