हुबली Hubli (UBL): Will the Hubli-Ankola railway link, a demand said to be pending since the British era, become a reality any soon? This issue has resurfaced after Railway Minister D.V.Sadananda Gowda said in Shimoga on Sunday that he will get environmental clearance to this 168-km line in one year.
The statement of the Railway Minister on the Hubli-Ankola project, a key infrastructure demand of north Karnataka and coastal Karnataka, comes a decade after the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest refused to part with dense forest land for it.
But the proponents of the project hope that the State will push for the project as it would lead to greater economic activity along the coast in the form of goods movement and also provide a direct rail link between the two important regions, though environmentalists have not warmed up to the idea.
New Mangalore Port Trust Chairman P.C. Parida said that about 1 million tonnes of goods traffic now being diverted to Chennai from the Bellary-Hospet industrial area could come to the port, if this line is constructed.
Trade and industry bodies in Hubli and Mangalore have been highlighting its positive socio-economic benefit to the two regions.
On the subject of environment objections, Mr. Parida said that there was a solution to everything, while another observer pointed out that the State government should take the lead in giving the support required for Mr. Sadananda Gowda to take the project forward by providing effective answers to the objections raised by the Union Ministry.
“Only a handful of environmentalists are opposed to it,” said Vittal Bhandary, leader of a left-wing cultural organisation, Samudaya, based in Karwar.
While Mr. Sadananda Gowda’s hopes of convincing the Union Ministry to accept the proposal rejected by it so categorically are actually daunting, what makes his task even more challenging is the fact that the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee is looking into the project’s environmental impact currently.
Project violates rules: environmentalist
Sirsi-based environmentalist Pandurang Hegde, who had petitioned the Supreme Court in the matter, said that the Hubli-Ankola rail line project could only be implemented in violation of rules protecting reserved forests.
He said that the proposed line would pass through Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary, the Anasi Tiger Reserve and the Western Ghats, which has been declared a biodiversity hotspot.