UDF walks out of Assembly over Silverline's "economic and environmental" unviability

Congress-led UDF opposition walked out of the Assembly, damning the LDF government's "quixotic" semi high-speed railway project, Silverline, as economically and environmentally unviable.

Moving an adjournment motion in the House, IUML legislator M. K. Muneer said the "unrealistic" project, if implemented, would dispossess more than 20,000 families.

It would foist an irredeemable debt of more than Rs 1,24,000 crores on the public and disrupt the natural order of things.

The 450-km long steep railway embankment required for Silverline would tear Kerala's narrow strip of terra firma asunder geographically.

It would subsume large expanses of ecologically fragile wetlands, mangrove forests and paddies.

The elevated causeway would act as a barrier to the natural flow of water during monsoon, exacerbating the intensity of floods and mud slips.

Leader of the Opposition V. D. Satheesan said the government had not comprehensively assessed the environmental and economic impact of Silverline.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, like other authoritarian figures in history, is prone to condemn those sceptical about his "dream project" as traitors.

The government is struggling to source granite for Vizhinjam seaport construction. "How does the government hope to find granite required for raising 10 to 15 high railway embankments for Silverline. Will the administration hollow out the Western Ghats by allowing indiscriminate granite mining behind the cover of Silverline," Mr. Satheesan asked?

Silverline can only carry a minimal number of passengers and that too, at a steep ticket rate. It is not an answer to Kerala's commuting woes. Silverline is not an affordable mass rapid transport system, a primary requirement for Kerala.

Mr. Vijayan said the UDF's fears were misplaced. Silverline would compress the estimated 16-hour travelling time between Kasargode and Thiruvananthapuram to less than four.

The scheme would open up Kerala's verdant hinterlands to development and tourism and help reduce the State's carbon footprint.

Moreover, the Centre has specified that an environmental impact study was not mandatory for the "green project".

The Centre has approved the scheme in principle. Several international financial institutions, like JICA and ADB, have extended low-interest loans for the project.

Silverline would skirt population centres and use elevated paths to bypass rivers, lakes, forests and ecologically fragile lands. It would cause only minimal displacement.

Mr. Vijayan said eight comparable projects were underway in other States. Kerala has to catch up with the world in terms of sustainable infrastructure development. The Opposition should cooperate with the government and not mislead the people", he said.

Speaker M. B. Rajesh rejected the adjournment motion.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 9:32:34 PM |

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