NTCA rejects Hubballi-Ankola railway line proposal again

One of the reasons cited is the fragile ecosystems of Western Ghats

Published - November 09, 2018 11:52 pm IST - Belagavi

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), in its second site inspection report, has recommended for “complete abatement” of the Hubballi–Ankola railway line project. This is the second time the authority is rejecting the proposal.

In March this year, the NTCA had rejected the proposal. However, Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) officials had asked the authority along with scientists and officers to review its decision.

The rejection report, sent to the State government last month, cites the following reasons. The extremely fragile ecosystems of the Western Ghats will not be able to sustain or buffer impacts likely to be caused by a development project of the scale of Hubballi – Ankola railway track construction. Moreover, the adverse effects on forest contiguity, hydrology and drainage networks, distribution and behaviour of other endangered flora and fauna in the area, conservation of sacred groves, and impact on microclimate are some of the major irreversible impacts envisaged from implementing this project.

Mitigation is not a panacea that will overcome all ill-effects of development projects just by having overpasses, underpasses, ramps or tunnels. In fact, avoidance is considered as the very first mitigation step, according to the report.

The committee that conducted the site inspection cited these reasons and stated that it does not recommend implementing the project considering its wider ecological ramifications on the fragile Western Ghats and its impacts on persistence of many endangered species, and recommended “complete abatement” of the project.

A team of wildlife enthusiasts from Belagavi, headed by Giridhar Kulkarni, had raised several objections to the project, saying it would endanger wildlife and destroy the sensitive ecology of the region.

Mr. Kulkarni said the project had been rejected in the past by the State Forest Department, MoEFCC’s regional office in Bengaluru, the Central Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court, and the Forest Advisory Committee of the MoEFCC.

“We have petitioned to the chairperson, the member secretary, and members of the Karnataka State Board for Wildlife requesting them to reject the proposal which has been rejected by multiple statutory authorities in the past from both legal and ecological perspective,” he said.

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