Rail project runs into a roadblock

Proposed rail connectivity between Thalassery and Kadakola  

Citing an adverse report from its Forest Department, the Karnataka government has stalled the ambitious proposal of the Kerala government to develop the Thalassery-Wayanad-Mysuru rail line under Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (K-Rail), a joint venture company under the Kerala government and the Ministry of Railways.

Reliable sources told The Hindu that the Karnataka government had pointed out that the ₹5,000-crore project involving the construction of a lengthy tunnel across the Kabani river to save wildlife tracts of the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, and the Nagarhole National Park was not feasible.

Apart from the rich biodiversity-rich corridor between Nagerhole and Bandipur national parks being harmfully impacted, the sources said the Karnataka Forest Department had also specified that “even if the rail line is constructed through underground tunnels, it can affect water recharge underneath earth, thereby causing severe ecological imbalance to the habitat system.”

An official said it was not known whether the Karnataka Forest Department had arrived at this conclusion based on any scientific study conducted by the Indian Institute of Science, Wildlife Institute of India, or any Indian Institute of Technology. However, the decision will be a serious setback to the long-cherished dream of the people of north Kerala, he added.

The proposed alignment passes through the tunnel between the corridor of Nagerhole and Bandipur from Pulpally taluk to HD Kotte taluk in Karnataka. In Kerala, it connects Thalassery and Panoor in Kannur district, Vilangad in Kozhikode district, and Niravilpuzha, Tharuvana, Kalpetta, Meenangadi, and Pulpally in Wayanad district.

“The project can become a reality only through political will and consensus reached between the two States. Besides, the Kerala government should take initiate to conduct a scientific study to ascertain the ecological impact of the project,” the official said.

Four years ago, K-Rail had submitted a proposal from Thalassery to Mysuru via Wayanad, Coorg districts avoiding the Nagerhole National Park. Then the Chief Secretaries of Karnataka and Kerala agreed to the proposal in principle, but it failed to take off owing to vehement protests by people of Coorg district.

Incidentally, the first Pinarayi Vijayan government had taken interest in reviving the Nilambur-Nanjangud and Thalassery-Mysuru projects. The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) also prepared a detailed project report (DPR) for both the projects. Then the Karnataka Forest Department did not accept the projects, since both the lines passed through protected forest areas, the sources said.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 1:30:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kozhikode/rail-project-runs-into-a-roadblock/article34543143.ece

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