Protest
Many activists and residents opposing the project fear that further destruction of the forests will harm the Cauvery river, which is a lifeline to the people of half of south India.

A renewed push from Mysuru-Kodagu MP Pratap Simha to build Mysuru-Kushalnagar-New Broad Gauge Railway line ahead of the budget has irked environmentalists and a section of residents in the hilly district.

Simha in a tweet has shared his letter to the Railway Minister Piyush Goyal urging him to make allocations for the project under the ‘Umbrella Works of New Lines’.

The opposition is nothing new to the  87-km railway line between Belagola in Mysuru and Kushalnagar, the largest town in Kodagu, a district which until now did not have any rail connectivity.

Environmentalists pointed out that the destruction of the fragile Western Ghat ecosystem due to rampant commercialisation and unsustainable development, along with global factors, have made Kodagu vulnerable to environmental catastrophes like last year’s floods.

The rail project and a widening of national highway 275 through the forests are expected to cull more than four lakh trees.

Joseph Hoover, one noted conservationist and member of the United Conservation Movement, said, “Prathap Simha seems bent on having his way. Obviously, there is some hidden interest. Kodagu is reeling under the onslaught of excessive tourism. As per records, more than 14 lakh people visited the district between 2017 and 218. The infrastructure is inadequate to meet the demand, inspite of flourishing home-stays and resorts.

The living, caring, gentle people of Kodagu would definitely welcome tourists with open arms. But, unfortunately, their hospitality has been abused by tourists who litter the verdant district with plastic and other refuse.”

He added, “We are all aware of what happened during August 2018. Images of the destruction wreaked by unprecedented floods which triggered fatal landslides still gives us nightmares. Experts attributed the devastating catastrophe to rampant, unscientific development. Kodagu cannot be plundered in the name of tourism. Linear projects, such as four-lane roads and railway lines could destroy the ecologically sensitive district.”

The opposition has also come from many quarters in social media against the infrastructural development at the cost of the environment. The project has also been contested by the Coorg Wildlife Society in the Karnataka High Court and the matter is currently subjudice.

In November 2017, a mega rally was organised to stop the rail link between Mysuru to Kushalnagar and another connecting Mysuru and Thalassery in Kerala, cutting through the sensitive forests in the district. The first protest against the railway line was held in Madikeri on June 4, 2017, and the second at Kutta on August 26, 2017.

The project was first proposed in the UPA era in 2011 and was shelved after a survey commissioned by the Railways deemed the route to be unprofitable. However, the project got a push after then Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa promised to bear 50% of the costs of the proposed railway line.

A change.org petition against the construction of the railway track has registered more than 46,000 signatures at the time of writing. A third protest was held last month on the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Mysuru, when thousands of citizens gathered at Mysuru’s Dasara Exhibition Grounds to protest against the proposed railway line.

Read: This K’taka district doesn’t want a rail link, and has good reasons for it