In a blow to the efforts of the Kerala government, the State Forest and Wildlife Department has strongly objected to the proposed Thalassery-Mysuru railway project citing serious ecological factors such as threats to endangered flora and fauna and sociological issues.
Sources told The Hindu that the department had submitted a report to the government stating that the railway line passing through the forest belts of Kannavam and Periya would destroy the rich repositories of biological diversity having large chunks of tropical evergreen forests.
The area supported almost all species of animals found in the Western Ghats, including elephants, bison, tiger, leopard, wild dog, langurs and deer.
The Kannavam-Periya tract is known as a rare habitat of king cobra. Endangered species such as Malabar Ebony, Kulavu, Chora Pine and Jathi are in abundance here. So is the case with the Chandanachola region.
The Periya forest is also identified as one among the 18 Medicinal Plant Conservation Area of the Western Ghats, the sources said.
This forest is the connecting link of the largest elephant reserve in South India from the Mudumalai-Bandipur-Nilambur tract to the Bramhagiri Hills of Karnataka.
Once this forest is disturbed, the elephants will come down to human settlements of Nidumpoil and Edayar resulting in man-animal conflict in the zone.
In fact, five people had been killed in wild elephant attacks in this region in the past two or three years.
Besides, officials said the forest tract of the Western Ghats is a source of water for the rivers of north Kerala from Valapattanam to Mahe. More than three lakh people of Thalassery taluk depending on the Anjarakandi Puzha would be affected.
Also, 1,000-odd tribal families belonging to the Kurichiyar community live in the Kannavam forests in 33 settlements. They will be lose their livelihood, culture and traditional forest rights, the sources said.
A prominent project of the government on rail connectivity from north Kerala to Mysuru-Bengaluru is the Nilambur-Nanjangund line. Though this had been included in the Pink Book of Railways and ₹8 crore set apart for the detailed project report), the government has kept the project in abeyance following strong objection from the Karnataka Forest Department.
Instead, the government has opted to go ahead with the Thalassery-Mysuru line, the feasibility survey of which was also done by the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, which has opined that this line is not viable.