Wildlife Activists urge Railways to consider NTCA Report on Rail line project between Hubballi, Ankola

The NTCA site inspection report stated that this project was not feasible and will have a significant negative impact on the long-term conservation of tigers.

BENGALURU: While the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is in the process of submitting a second report on the proposed Hubballi-Ankola railway line project, wildlife activists have called upon both the Central and state governments to consider the recommendations given by them in the first report. The NTCA had raised serious concerns on the negative impact of the proposed railway line on the precious ecology of the Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot.

The NTCA site inspection report clearly stated that this project was not feasible and will have a significant negative impact on the long-term conservation of tigers and other megaherbivores in the Western Ghats landscape by fragmenting existing habitat connectivity and continuity. This report was placed before the 48th meeting of Standing Committee of National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) in March this year. But bowing to political pressure, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) has once again asked NTCA to submit one more report within a month which is expected to be placed in the 49th meeting of NBWL.

The first NTCA report states, “If this new line was meant only for transporting iron ore from Ballari to the upcoming ports of Tadri and Karwar, then why is it needed even after the production of iron ore has decreased? As per the Supreme Court directions, there has hardly been any transportation of iron ore in the last few years and the proposed rail line may not get any iron cargo.”

The report also states, “Further, economic development need not be done at such a huge cost to the forest, wildlife of Western Ghats landscape. There is a huge scope for utilising the existing vast network of railways and roads for transportation of goods and services from the coastal regions to the hinterlands. Although mitigation measures have been prescribed, they may not be effective for preventing wildlife mortality, habitat integrity and connectivity of landscapes.”

Wildlife activist Giridhar Kulkarni adds, “I appeal to the governments to drop the project as the first report submitted by NTCA clearly states the serious consequences on the ecology here. Moreover, the report states that as per SC directions, iron ore production has drastically reduced in this area. So, for whose benefit is this railway line being pursued?”