Scrap Hubballi-Ankola rail line project, say wildlife activists

Source: ENS | Published on 7th September 2018, 6:28 PM | Coastal News |

Hubli: With the Hubballi-Ankola railway line project coming up for an unprecedented re-review before the standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) on Friday, wildlife activists and experts have appealed to the Ministry of Environment and Forests to dismiss the proposal lock, stock and barrel.

Experts and forest officials stressed that India has witnessed two major disasters recently in Kodagu and Kerala in the form of unprecedented floods and landslides with major reasons being deforestation, illegal sand mining, rampant infrastructure development and increased tourism activities. If this railway line is approved, it will leave everlasting and disastrous environmental/social consequences in the years to come, they said.

The 168.28-km rail project involves primarily the diversion of 595.64 hectares of pristine forest lands in Karwar, Yellapura and Dharwad forest divisions by felling of more than two lakh native and rare trees. Further, the alignment will pass through dense forest cover of the Western Ghats comprising three elephant corridors, a tiger and a conservation reserve, and a wildlife sanctuary.

Wildlife activist Giridhar Kulkarni said, “The Biodiversity Impact Assessment Report of the project also clearly states that this project will have negative impact like changes in land use/land cover, loss of trees/forests, loss of habitat of wild animals, risks due to landslides, mudslides, smuggling of timber and forest goods, and contamination of land and water besides others.”

As far as legal issues are concerned, they have been dumped in the bin. Till date, no approval has come from the Karnataka State Board for Wildlife. Further, as per prevailing norms/guidelines, it is mandatory to follow certain procedures for taking up non-forestry activity in wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, conservation reserves and areas within 10 km of such protected areas. The standing committee of NBWL has been insisting on recommendations of the state board for all such proposals, but the state government has violated established procedures by bypassing this board.

Kulkarni said, “The NBWL should not entertain the proposal as it clearly violates the Supreme Court guidelines (as laid down in the Lafarge judgment) not to entertain post facto approvals.”

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