New Delhi: In a set back to the long pending Hubballi-Ankola railway line, the Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee on forest and wildlife has given red signal to the project saying the proposed plan will cause huge ecological damage in Western Ghats.
The panel in its report submitted to the Apex Court said that the current value of requirement of 727 hectares of forest land in Western Ghats areas for the project would be Rs 7,426 crore which is more than three times of the total project cost.
The CEC urged the Supreme Court to direct the Ministry of Environment and Forests not to approve the project because ecological losses will be more than the benefit from the project.
The Railway Board sanctioned the 167-km long Hubli-Ankola railway line project during 1995-96. The 45-km stretch of railway line has been completed from Hubballi to Kalghatagi.
Since the Kalghatagi-Ankola stretch comes under the forest zone, railways is waiting for the forest clearances for execution of the project.
Once completed, the Hubballi-Ankola railway line will provide speedy connectivity to the hinterland in north Karnataka to the existing port at Karwar and upcoming Greenfield ports at Tadadi and Haldipur on the west coast.
According to the Environment Ministry, a total of 1,134 hectares of land (727 hectare of forest land, 210 hectare of dry land and 179 hectare of wetland) will be completely degraded with the implementation of the project.
It has noted that the rail line would pass through the sensitive tiger reserve area. The CEC, however, has given its approval to divert five hectares of fringe forest land for the Hubballi-Kalaghati stretch of the proposed link as sought by the Railways if the project implementing authority confirmed that the segment would be commercially viable.