With authorities going ahead with the controversial rail project connecting Hubballi in north Karnataka and the port of Ankola through the eco-sensitive Western Ghats, a petition opposing the rail line has been filed in the Karnataka High Court. The petitioner Giridhar Kulkarni, a wildlife activist confirmed the development but said he will only speak on the matter at a later time.
The proposed rail line cutting through the dense forests including the Kali Tiger Reserve was first ideated 20 years ago but have been opposed by various environmental authorities since then including the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
The project which was on the backburner had resurfaced in January 2019 as it got a mention in the list of agendas in one of Karnataka State Wildlife Board meeting chaired by then Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy.
More recently on March 20, Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa approved the controversial project being the head of the state Wildlife Board. As a mark of protest Congress MLA Sowmya Reddy who is also part of the Board had resigned.
But her party colleague and former minister RV Deshpande has written to the Centre to immediately start work as it will promote development of the north Karnataka and coastal regions.
The project was halted following a Supreme Court stay order passed in 1999. Further top forest officers and members of the State Wildlife Board had argued that the line is unnecessary given the Belekeri port is only 1.5 hours away from Hubballi.
The project is estimated to cost 2.2 lakh; it will involve the felling of full grown trees that too in reserved forest areas which green activists in the state and the Western Ghat region vehemently oppose.
According to previous estimates as earlier reported, a total of 995.64 hectares of land is required for the project, including 595.64 hectares of forest land, 184.6 hectares of wetland, and 190 hectares of dry land including parts of Kali Tiger Reserve and Bedthi Conservation Reserve.