CEC visit to Karnataka, hopes for Hubli-Ankola rail link revive

BANGALORE: The Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) members will be in Karnataka on Tuesday to look into various issues and primarily on the environmental impact on the proposed Hubli-Ankola railway line.

With CEC assessing the long pending 167-km rail link, the move has raised fresh hopes for the people of coastal and Malnad belt to connect with the hinterland. While the government and people have great expectation on the rail link as it is expected to boost social and economic activities, environmentalists have opposed the proposal alleging that huge tracts of forest would be destroyed.

“Around 750 acres of forest would be lost for this project, which is less compared to any other standards. But the link has huge potential in overall development of coastal and central Karnataka,” chief secretary Kaushik Mukherjee told. As the some parts of forest cover in the Malnad would be lost the CEC has to assess the situation.

Batting for the project, Mukherjee said the proposed link is important as coastal and Malnad region people don’t have a direct rail link with the hinterland. “They have to travel huge distance through train to reach hinterland. Only Bangalore-Sakleshpur train which runs to Mangalore. For people in Uttara Kannada and Udupi, Goa and Mumbai are close due to various rail links,” he said.

According to him, the proposed Hubli-Ankola rail link would boost up economic activities of central and coastal Karnataka with improvement in goods and services without affecting the environment as railway is one of the cleanest form of transport. “The link may also upgraded to electricity run one in future,” Mukherjee said.

Studies on the feasibility of the Hubli-Ankola railway link had been on for more than a decade. The foundation stone for this route was laid by former prime minister AB Vajpayee. Many politicians of the region have even made a career promising this important line to voters. In 2001, the cost of the project was estimated at Rs 998 crore. Many minor bridges and culverts have already been constructed between Kalghatgi and Hubli, before Union ministry of environment and forests halted the project following opposition from environmentalists.

Recently, a scientific team from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, took up a preliminary study of the topography of the terrain. The six-member team headed by TV Ramachandra and Subhaschandra visited areas like Karwar, Yellapur, Kiruvatti, Mastikoppa and Hubli.

The CEC will also review the resettlement and rehabilitation (R&R) of A category mines in Bellary. The SC has termed A category mines as no violations. The apex court had ordered for reopening of these mines and the iron ore produced to be e-auctioned.