National Board for Wildlife directs Railways to justify Hubbali-Ankola line to Karnataka

HUBBALI: The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has directed Railways to justify the construction of the Hubbali (SWR) – Ankola (Karwar Division/KRCL) railway line in Karnataka through the ecologically fragile Western Ghats and asked it to first get clearance from the state wildlife board while deferring a decision on the proposal. The 165-kms proposed railway line that requires diversion of 595 hectares of forest has already been rejected by the NBWL, but Railways once again requested the NBWL standing committee to consider the project, sources said.

A site inspection report of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Wildlife Institute of India, and Karnataka forest department flagged major reservations before NBWL about the project. The joint inspection report told NBWL that the railway line passes through tiger as well as elephant corridors that help the wild animals traverse the Western Ghat landscape and migrate between habitats. The railway line will affect the Bhadra tiger reserve – Kali tiger reserve tiger corridor, Dharwad elephant corridor, and Yellapura elephant corridor.

The report pointed out that the corridor also connects to Goa in the north through a contiguous forest habitat. Further, it was flagged that the existing railways lines of Miraj-Londa and Hospet-Tinnaighat that pass through the Ghats have witnessed several instances of elephant mortality. In earlier meetings, it also stressed that the proposed railway line would have significant negative impact on long-term conservation of tigers and mega herbivores in the Western Ghats landscape by fragmenting existing habitat connectivity and contiguity.

In light of the reservations placed before NBWL during a meeting on September 7, which also included Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan, the Railways was asked to review the project.

Connecting Karwar port to this railway line is one of the chief objectives of the project, the South Western Railway has said in the past. The line, railways had said, would establish one more link to Vasco and Mangalore ports through Konkan railway route and meet future requirement of freight traffic of the area.