Wildlife Board to discuss Hubballi-Ankola railway project again

Source: DHNS/Niranjan Kaggere  | Published on 20th March 2020, 4:23 PM | Coastal News | State News |

Bengaluru: Amid stiff opposition by a majority of the Karnataka State Wildlife Board members and conservationists, the state government has convened the 14th meeting of the Wildlife Board on Friday to discuss the controversial Hubballi-Ankola railway project. The project, which had already been rejected by the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) and other agencies of Union Environment Ministry for the potential damage it could inflict upon the fragile Western Ghats landscape, is yet again pursued by the state government for implementation.

According to a source in the Forest Department, the issue has been brought before the Board solely based on the report submitted by the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) that recommended the project along with mitigation measures. However, these measures have strongly been criticised by conservationists. Guru Prasad, a conservational activist, said, “Already the forest department is reeling under severe staff crunch and how could it patrol the rail line in addition to their routine work? The area proposed for the project is one of the least disturbed forests of Western Ghats and no amount of mitigation measure will be in a position to compensate for the huge cost of ecological damage.”

Contrary to the mitigation measures that IISc scientists have advocated, the Railways since February 2014 to till date are responsible for killing 34 Indian Gaurs, 2 elephants, 2 sambars, a sloth bear and a wild dog on the existing Dharwad-Londa-Vasco Rail lane and Londa-Khanapur-Belagavi Rail lane. Besides, the prime minister-constituted National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has also written to the Railways on the impact of such projects and had previously rejected the proposal based on a scientific report.

Giridhar Kulkarni, wildlife activist, said, “We are hopeful that state Government will make a decision in the interest of forest, wildlife and will not repeat the mistake which it had committed in the case of Bannerghatta ESZ reduction which was against the interest of Wildlife Conservation.

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