Hubballi-Ankola rail project again fails to get NTCA nod

Welcoming the  decision, wildlife activists have called upon Karnataka State Board of Wildlife to reject the project once for all.
A railway bridge near Hubballi which is part of proposed Hubballi-Ankola railway line | D Hemanth
A railway bridge near Hubballi which is part of proposed Hubballi-Ankola railway line | D Hemanth

BENGALURU: In a major setback to the state government, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has rejected the controversial Hubballi-Ankola rail project in the biodiversity hotspot of Western Ghats, yet again. The project requires diversion of 596 hectares of pristine forest lands in Karwar, Yellapura and Dharwad divisions for the construction of the 168.28 KM broad gauge line. If the project is cleared, it will also see felling of two lakh trees, destruction of three elephant corridors and fragmentation of habitat connectivity for tiger reserves.

“The proposed rail line traverses through dense forest cover and cuts across the Western Ghats. It also fragments the old migration paths of Indian elephants. Out of the six occupied tiger landscapes of India, the Western Ghats landscape possesses the best habitat connectivity and contiguity,” said an NTCA official.

“Future of tigers in India depends on conserving the habitat connectivity of isolated tiger population in reserves. The proposed railway line will have a negative impact on long term conservation of tigers and other mega herbivores in the landscape,” the official added.

Welcoming the  decision, wildlife activists have called upon Karnataka State Board of Wildlife to reject the project once for all. “No mitigation measure can overcome the massive destruction of pristine forests, water resources and wildlife habitat in Western Ghats. Section 8 of Wildlife Protection Act clearly states that it shall be the duty of State Board of Wildlife to advise the government in formulation of the policy for protection and conservation of the wildlife and specified plants,” said an activist.

PROPOSAL SENT WITHOUT BOARD’S CLEARANCE

In view of the government’s policy change bypassing the Karnataka State Board for Wildlife for ‘green clearance’ of the two decade-old rail project, the Centre will now issue an advisory clarifying that no proposal shall be considered by the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) without the clearance of the State Board of Wildlife. NBWL member Dr H S Singh said that more often state governments send proposals for consideration of the standing committee of NBWL without the recommendations of the state board. “This  needs to to be curbed.” The proposal is likely to be sent back to the state for revision.

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