Greens Cry Foul over Railway Line cutting through Kodagu, fear destruction of Forests
MYSORE: Activism is building up in Kodagu with local environmentalists campaigning hard against any new railway proposals on the grounds that it is inimical to the ecology of the district.
This includes the Mysuru-Madikeri railway line for which the survey work has already been completed. The other project is the Mysuru-Thalassery railway line, the survey of which was approved in the general budget for 2017-18.
The Mysuru-Madikeri railway line was listed in the Railway Budget 2016-17 under “new line” category at an estimated cost of ₹667 crore and the techno-economic survey was completed. But the project — originally mooted over 100 years ago — did not gain further traction. The funding was to be made under the extra budgetary allocation, but it is stuck in the maze of bureaucracy.
Similarly, the Mysuru-Thalassery railway line was mooted almost 60 years ago but it remained on paper. However, there is fresh traction for a new survey reckoned to have a new alignment so as to bypass the forestland, national parks and so on and avoid eco-sensitive zones.
But a senior official in the Forest Department told that the proposal was still in a “very preliminary stage” and it was too premature to comment on its likelihood of securing environmental clearance. However, the project has political support in Kerala as it reduces the travel time between North Kerala and Bengaluru, he added.
Meanwhile, C.P. Muthanna of Coorg Wildlife Society (CWS), said that they have already expressed their opposition to railway lines to Kodagu. “The State government has been apprised of the negative environmental fallout of railway projects passing through Kodagu as a whole and district in-charge Minister M.R. Seetharaman has agreed to write to the Centre opposing it,” said Mr. Muthanna.
Besides, Kodagu is already saddled with high human-elephant conflict and such projects would dismember or disturb the habitat further and accentuate the conflict, according to CWS.
The organisation recently conducted a Save Cauvery rally expressing fears over the environmental implications of major infrastructure projects that could cut through the forest area of the district and erode its green cover.
The Mysuru-Talassery railway line passes through Piriyapattana-Thithimathi-Balele-Kutta-Manandavadi-Kootuparambu-Talassery.
Environmentalists fear the destruction of vast area of forest if the railway line passes through Kodagu district.
It was Suresh Prabhu as a Railway Minister who gave green signal for the railwayline between Mysuru-Kushalnagar, covering a distance of 84 km. In the first phase, the government had even earmarked Rs 667 crore.
The railways had carried out survey of the route twice in the past. The work on land acquisition and laying of tracks are pending. There is also a proposal before the Centre to extend the route to Madikeri.
Environmentalists state, “If railway connectivity has to be provided to Kodagu district then restrict it to Kushalnagar. If it is extended to Madikeri, then there is a possibility of destruction of Aanekadu reserve forest, thousands of acres of coffee estates near Kedakal and Suntikoppa. The felling of thousands of trees will directly affect the rain pattern the region.”
The demand for railway connectivity to Kodagu was raised when R Gundurao was the Chief Minister. Those who have been supporting the project have been submitting petitions demanding railway connectivity for the last three decades.
Those who are supporting the project feel that the railway connectivity will promote tourism in the district. Without railway connectivity, the farm produce cannot be transported to Mumbai and Kolkatta.
Sources said that Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has shown keen interest in Mysuru-Talassery railway line. He has held talks with the Railway Board and has asked them to prepare a proposal on land acquisition and estimate for the project.
MLA K G Bopaiah said “In the backdrop of stiff opposition to the project, it is not right on the part of the bureaucrats of both the states to hold a discussion on the same. The project should be stalled.”