Hubballi-Ankola Railway Line to be Flagged Off Soon
KARWAR: As the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has given its nod to the Ministry of Railways to approach the state government for conversion of forest land for the controversial Hubballi-Ankola railway line, those who endorsed the project expect that the state government will do the needful to restart the work.
The Ministry of Railways had sanctioned the project in 1997-1998 for laying a new broad gauge railway line from Hubballi to Ankola. The total distance from Hubballi junction to Ankola is 168.289 km. It provides a direct rail link to the west coast. The Railways sanctioned funds for a initial work for the stretch of 50 km in 1999. The foundation stone was laid in 2000 by then prime minister A B Vajpayee. An MoU was signed in September 2000 between Railways and Karnataka Rail Infrastructure Development Enterprise for sharing the cost of the project on 50:50 basis.
The railway line was earlier planned to serve mainly freight traffic. The purpose was to transport iron ore from Ballari-Hosapete sector to the proposed port at Tadadi near Ankola and also to the ports at Vasco and Madgaon in Goa. It was calculated that the railway line will help transport of 16 million tonnes per annum from the present six million tonnes.
The Railways in September 1998 applied to the Karnataka Forest Department for diversion of the forest land for the purpose, but the latter refused to do so saying that it would cause severe damage to ecological system in the Western Ghats.
However in October 2003, the state government, notwithstanding the objections, asked the Forest Department to apply for conversion of forest land. Later, the Karnataka Government’s proposal was rejected by the CCF (Central) in 2004 as it would result in cutting of 2.66 lakh trees. It would also affect the habitat and a corridor of elephants. Later, the forest advisory committee also rejected the project.
However, upon request of the Railways, the MoEF re-submitted a report and reduced the forest land requirement from 965 hectares to 720 hectares. Meanwhile, in 2006, two Karnataka-based NGOs — Parisara Samrakshana Kendra and Wilderness Club — had filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the diversion of the forest land for the project. Later, the Apex Court halted the construction.
The same year, the Supreme Court formed a CEC and asked the Railways to stop the work done on non-forest land.
However, the CEC submitted the report last year to the Supreme Court and brought the above matter to the Apex Court. It also recommended to reject the project. The Apex Court on October 5 last year transferred the bunch of cases involving forest clearances and the CEC’s views on it to the green panel while asking it to decide them expeditiously. Much to the delight of those who are in favour of the project, the National Green Tribunal has asked the Railways to get the nod of the state government to divert forest land.
A Bird’s View of The Project
Total required land for the project is 1,384.40 hectares, out of which 965 hectare is reserve forest land falling in Dharwad, Yellapur and Karwar forest divisions. 173 hectare is wetland, 221 hectare is dry land and 25.40 hectare is miscellaneous land.
The estimated cost then was `1,153.08 crore and now it is revised to `2,315.384 crore. Out of the 168.3 km of railway track, 105.179 km falls in the plain section while the remaining 63.110 km between Yellapur and Sunkasal in the ghat section.
The total length of the alignment in embankment is 97 km, cutting is 68.73 km and tunnel is 21.88 km. The project includes construction of 329 bridges, including 50 major and 279 minor bridges and 29 tunnels.