By U.B. Acharya
This refers to the recent news item that the cost of Rail Line between Mysuru-Belagola and then on to Kushalnagar has entered the “pink book”. This would mean that it is practically ready for execution. Considering that Railways are building a huge office in Madikeri, it is clear that their immediate aim is to build a Railway Line from Kushalnagar to Madikeri and then ultimately on to B.C. Road down the Ghat to connect the line to Mangaluru. Do the Railways have the approval of the Ministry of Environment? I doubt it.
Last year, because of the strong lobby of the people of Malabar region, Kerala Government pressurized the Railways to build a Rail Line through thick forest area and Western Ghats from Thalassery to Kushalnagar. At that time there was a very strong protest from the people of Coorg and the matter was postponed for the time being. As we all know, there are already six Railway Lines across the Western Ghats and there is no need for yet another Rail Line.
Regarding Roads, there are over two dozen National and State Highways plus umpteen other Roads across this Ghat. Add to this the power transmission lines and ALL of these results in deforestation, which in turn would affect the average rainfall. Most importunately it does not just rain occasionally but pours and this results in landslides and large scale erosion! This would be a disaster not only to Kodagu but to the entire Southern India environmentally.
Considering that there is huge population not only on both the sides of the Ghat but also on the Ghat itself, a decent mode of transportation across the Ghat is important. Here it is essential for the authorities to think like how the Autobahns of Germany around the Black Forest were built (see map). The inner roads are all single lane roads while the Autobahns are around it! Since most of the main Roads in Western Ghats are already two lanes, let us not make them into four.
Meanwhile, the main National Highway between Cochin and Mumbai which is West of the Ghat, could be made into a super Highway with six or even eight lanes. Similarly if necessary another super Highway just East of the Ghat, for example, from Gundlupet-Hunsur-Shivamogga-
There are various methods to control the accidents in such narrow Ghat roads. One is to restrict speed limits. To impose this speed limit, one could have a post just outside say Kushalnagar where one’s car number and time of entry is noted and transmitted to another post before entering Madikeri. If a vehicle reaches earlier than the stipulated time, impose a penalty for excessive speed driving.
At present there are several single lane Roads across the Ghat. My earnest request to the authorities is to keep it that way. This reminds me of several roads in Upper Assam, particularly one between the two oil towns, Digboi and Duliajan. These two towns are separated by 40 kms with 25 kms of thick elephant infested forest in between. When the Road was built in 1950s, it was a one lane road with a small wider portion every 200 metres or so for vehicles to cross over or a smaller vehicle to overtake a heavier oilfield 16-wheel truck. I visited the place in 2013 and was pleased to see that the forest portion of the road is still single lane !
We could apply the same principle to roads in Western Ghats also. Keep National Highways as two lanes and State Highways and other roads as a single lane with wider space at regular intervals for vehicles to cross or faster vehicles to overtake. Thus we will save the forests.
We could improve the transportation by bringing in the Aviation Ministry. Why not build a large helipad at Madikeri and introduce daily helicopter service to Bengaluru-Mysuru and Mangaluru through UDAN scheme? For achieving the optimum results, co-operation of all the above mentioned Ministries is essential.