Activists said that the project would result in several trees being felled and would also disturb the habitat.

Wildlife Board gives nod to double railway track through Western GhatsRepresentational image
news Environment Thursday, January 07, 2021 - 18:11

Amidst massive protests in Goa against the doubling of a railway track in the Western Ghats, the Indian government on Wednesday announced that it was going ahead with the project. Taking to Twitter, Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Prakash Javadekar announced the National Board for Wildlife’s (NBWL) approval to the Tinaighat-Castlerock-Caranzol railway doubling project proposed by South Western Railways (SWR). Activists had earlier said that the project would result in several trees being felled and disturb the habitat in the ghats.  

“Happy to inform that in its 60th meeting, NBWL has recommended the proposal for Tinaighat-Castlerock-Caranzol railway doubling of South Western Railways, Karnataka with certain mitigation measures as advised by the Wildlife Institute of India in Dehradun,” Javadekar said.

 According to a note by the SWR, the single line between Hospet in Karnataka and Vasco da Gama in Goa was built in 1900 and connects industrial areas in Hospet and Marmugao port in Goa, besides various other tourist destinations in the two states. The SWR said that the line had become saturated due to accelerated industrial growth and an increased influx of tourists. 

The site inspection report by the Forest Department, stating the purpose of such a project, said, “The doubling is proposed to transport coal and also in the interest of tourists to visit Goa”. 

The report also outlined that the “proposed area falls under the Castle Rock Wildlife Range which is part of Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary and which is under the administrative control of Kali Tiger Reserve.” 

The area is inhabited by tigers, leopards, black panthers, gaur, sambar deer, chital, wild boars, reptiles, amphibians and a variety of birds. It is also endemic to the castle rock night frog (Nyctibatrachus petraeus), the report said. 

Activists who have been opposing the project pointed to the site inspection report, which said that 5,413 trees were marked for felling for the proposed project in Kali Tiger Reserve alone. Speaking to TNM on Thursday afternoon, wildlife activist Joseph Hoover said, “The project will disturb the entire habitat (in the ghats). Already, we have lost three gaur and two sambar deer recently due to the single rail line in Tinaighat.” 

“The double rail project which passes through ecologically sensitive areas goes entirely against the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and Biological Diversity Act 2002 among others,” Joseph said, adding, “This could have been avoided.”

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