A railway project that connects Hubballi in the plains and Ankola on the coast in Karnataka was recently given clearance by Chief Minister B.S Yeddiyurappa.
The Hubbali-Ankola railway line was first announced in 1997 at an estimated cost of Rs. 483.15 crore. But since then, the project has been met with stiff opposition.
The track alignment of this railway line extends to over 168 kms and cuts through dense forests of the Western Ghats. Experts believe this would destroy the existing biodiverstiy hotspot at the location. Railways claims that the project involves felling of 1.78 lakh to 2.2 lakh trees.
But according to a report submitted by an expert committee, these figures are a gross underestimation. A site inspection conducted by experts say that, a diversion of 595.64 hectares of forestland in Karwar, Yellapur and Dharwad divisions is required.
The proposed line would pass through different types of forests, including evergreen, semi-evergreen, moist deciduous, and dry deciduous forests. It will pass through two major protected areas — the Kali Tiger Reserve and the Bedthi Conservation Reserve.
The report also points out that the project zone is rich in fauna. It is home to species such as the tiger, leopard, sloth bear, sambar, Indian porcupine, Indian fox and chital, to name a few. Experts fear that the project could be a major cause of wildlife mortality as it also intersects with the elephant movement corridor.
Some feel that there is no need for a new line as the existing railway line through Castle Rock passes just around 80 kms north.