High Court moved against Hubballi-Ankola Railway line project

The project was cleared by State government in March

HUBBALLI: Environmentalists have approached the High Court of Karnataka to stall the controversial Hubballi-Ankola railway line project, which was cleared by the State government in March.

Sources said the petitioners have questioned the legality and the manner in which the project was pushed through in the State Board for Wildlife despite opposition to it, apart from underlining the environmental ramifications of the project.

The petitioners will underline the fact that the project was rejected repeatedly by the State Board for Wildlife and expert committees, constituted by the Central Board for Wildlife, the sources added.

The Forest Department too had rejected the project earlier on the grounds that it was environmentally disastrous.

It will also result in the felling of nearly 3 lakh trees, according to environmentalists.

An expert committee report, commissioned by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), had also rejected the project and questioned its economic and commercial viability.

This was in the light of the decline in mining activities and the presence of an alternative railway line that already links the mining areas to the ports on both the west and east coasts.

The project was first mooted in 1998, and in 2002 the Forest Department rejected the proposal as it entailed diversion of 1.3 lakh hectares of forest land in Uttara Kannada district.

Between 2002 and 2014, the project was deliberated at various forum in the Forest Department, by the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court and was rejected.

It was rejected by the National Board for Wildlife on two occasions and faced opposition in the State Board for Wildlife when it came up for deliberations again.

However, political leaders across party lines have backed the project brushing aside environmental considerations.

The railway line alignment cuts through the wildlife habitat that is rich in highly endangered species, including tigers, elephants, lion-tailed macaques, gaurs, sloth bears, sambars, chitals, mouse deers, common giant flying squirrels, striped hyenas, jackals, common wolf, Indian fox, Indian porcupines, common mongoose, small Indian mongoose, hare, common langur, Indian pangolin, wild pig, chowsingha, black buck, toddy cat, jungle cat, bonnet macaque, among others.

The ecosystem also harbours 650 tree species of which 352 are endemic, 157 species of reptiles, of which 62% are endemic. and 219 species of fish of which 53% per cent are endemic.