Study Material | Test Series
Drishti IAS
call1800-121-6260 / 011-47532596
Drishti The Vision Foundation
(A unit of VDK Eduventures Pvt. Ltd.)
prelims Test Series 2019
बेसिक इंग्लिश का दूसरा सत्र (कक्षा प्रारंभ : 22 अक्तूबर, शाम 3:30 से 5:30)
SC Panel's 'No' to Rail Link through Western Ghats
Aug 25, 2015

The Rs 2,315-crore Hubli-Ankola railway line, cutting across the Western Ghats in Karnataka, has been shown the red signal by a Supreme Court panel on forest and wildlife, which said that the project’s huge and irreparable ecological impact would far outweigh its actual tangible benefits. 

  • The 168-km rail link project was conceived in 1998 primarily to transport iron ore from the Bellary-Hospet mines.

  • In its report, the Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee (CEC) underlined that the net present value of the modified requirement of 727 hectares of forest land for the project works out to Rs 7,426 crore, more than triple the project cost.

  • It said, recommending that the apex court may direct the Environment Ministry not to reconsider or approve the project it had earlier rejected.These figures most effectively demonstrate the extraordinary high ecological and economic value of the forest land involved in the project.

  • A joint venture between the Railways and the Karnataka government, the original project involved construction of 329 bridges and 29 tunnels, and required felling of more than 2.5 lakh trees on 965 hectares of forest land.

  • The proposal was rejected by the Environment Ministry in 2004 but revived with modifications in 2006. 

  • Pushing the rail link in 2008, the Karnataka government claimed it was inevitable that the Western Ghats has to be pierced through at some point to ensure this connectivity between coastline and eastern plains of the state.

  • In 2002, the Karnataka forest department observed that no national interest would be served by dissecting the forest landscape of Uttara Kannada with a new rail link when the potential of the existing alternatives such as Hubli-Vasco, Hospet-Chennai and Hospet-Vizag lines was yet to be tapped fully due to the low volume of iron ore traffic. It further reasoned that the deposit of Bellary-Hospet itself would not last beyond 20 years, making mining economically unviable.

  • In May 2004, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Environment Ministry observed that the project for transporting mainly iron ore has not much justification while this will simply be a tragedy on the prime forests of the Western Ghats. Accordingly, the ministry rejected the proposal.

  • In the following months, the Railway Ministry mounted pressure, underlining the importance of the project in view of increasing global demand for iron ore. In September, the FAC asked the Karnataka government to critically revise the proposal. The Railway ministry modified the proposal in 2005, reducing the forest land requirement to 720 hectare.

  • In 2006, two NGOs approached the CEC which found that though the project was rejected, work was in progress on a 40-km non-forest stretch. 

  • Before CEC could take action, 80 per cent of earth and bridge works up to 47 km between Hubli and Kiravatti was complete.

  • In 2011, the state government engaged the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) to prepare a technical report. 

  • Recommending a Rs 450-crore mitigation plan, the IISc report said in 2012 that the proposed link would cut through a key elephant corridor and trigger conflict, while removal of trees would lead to a loss of 2.25 lakh tonnes of carbon and annual sequestration potential of upto 3,696 tonnes.

  • Between 2006 and 2013, the CEC held seven hearings and meetings on the project. 

  • During this period, the Railways proposed to implement the project in stages while Karnataka further reduced the total forest land requirement to 687 hectare.

  • Dismissing the reduction in forest-land requirement, the CEC said that no amount of mitigation measures would be adequate to contain the severe adverse impact on the biodiversity-rich dense forest of Western Ghats.

Helpline Number : 87501 87501
To Subscribe Newsletter and Get Updates.