Forest Department red flags Thalassery-Mysore Rail Line

Talakaveri Wildlife Sanctuary

Following an adverse report by the Karnataka Forest Department that pristine forests of Western Ghats (in South Kodagu and Mysuru) will be destroyed if the proposed Thalassery-Mysore project is implemented, the State Government has stalled the project and has conveyed the same to the Centre, reports said.

The ambitious project, costing more than Rs. 5,000 crore, has been identified by Kerala State Government and it has entrusted it to Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL). The survey work for the projects was entrusted to Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) for preparing the Detailed Project Report (DPR). The KRDCL has submitted the Pre-Feasibility Report by proposing the alignment via Kutta (Kodagu district in Karnataka) to the Railway Board.

The survey was, however, not permitted in Karnataka due to stiff opposition by the Forest Department officials who reasoned that the project will spell doom for rich biodiversity of South Kodagu as the Railway line will pass through the lush green areas of Nagarahole National Park and Tiger Reserve, Kutta, Kanoor, Balele, Thithimathi before entering Mysuru.

The proposed railway line was to crisscross virgin forests, protected areas and plantations inside Coorg & Mysore.

The proposed Railway line passes through nearly 84-km of thick forests covering 49-km in Kerala and 35 km in Karnataka that are rich repositories of biological diversity having large chunks of tropical evergreen forest, the Forest Department said.

Following the opposition, the Kerala Government proposed an alternative route that has Thalassery in Kerala and Kadakola in Karnataka near Mysuru as starting and ending points and the route is via Sultan Batheri from Thalassery to Kadakola that does not cut through forests. Instead, the line will pass through H.D. Kote, Antharasanthe border, and reach Bavali village from where the line proceeds towards Kerala.

This alternative line, however, envisages a 22-kilometre tunnel at Antharasanthe Range of Nagarahole Tiger Reserve (Kabini area), Bavali and surrounding forests to avoid the rail line cutting through the forests. The proposed alignment passes through the tunnel between corridor of Nagarahole and Bandipur from Pulpally Taluk of Kerala to H.D. Kote Taluk of Karnataka.

Even this route has been shot down by the Forest Department and officials have said that tunnels are bound to affect water recharge underneath the forests thereby causing severe ecological damage to the habitat system.

Sources said that the Forest Department has also stalled the Nilambur-Nanjangud Railway line for which the DMRC has prepared a DPR. Department officials did not accept the project since the lines were passing through Bandipur and Nagarahole Tiger Reserves.

Though this Nilambur-Nanjangud line had been included in the Pink Book of Railways and Rs. 8 crore set apart for the DPR, the Kerala Government kept the project in abeyance following strong objection from the Karnataka Forest Department, sources said.

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