TAG: GS 3: ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT, GS 3: ECONOMY
THE CONTEXT: The proposed 236-kilometer broad-gauge railway line connecting Nilambur in Kerala to Nanjangudi in Karnataka through Bandipur National Park has sparked controversy, with environmentalists expressing concerns about its potential ecological impact.
- The project, aiming to enhance interstate connectivity and reduce travel time, has become a focal point for conservationists advocating for the preservation of the protected area.
Project Rationale and Environmental Concerns
- Interstate Connectivity vs. Ecological Impact
- The Kerala government, the proponent of the project, underscores its potential to improve interstate connectivity and alleviate traffic congestion on National Highway-766.
- However, the proposed railway line’s route through the ecologically sensitive Bandipur National Park has raised alarms among wildlife experts and conservationists.
- The project’s perceived benefits in terms of connectivity and reduced travel distance are being weighed against the potential harm to wildlife habitats and the environment.
- Opposition from Environmentalists
- Environmentalists argue that a 19.7-kilometer stretch of the existing National Highway-766 already traverses Bandipur National Park, and the railway line could exacerbate ecological disruptions.
- Concerns are particularly focused on the potential lifting of the night traffic ban in Bandipur, a move that conservationists fear could lead to accidents and negatively impact wildlife.
Protests and Advocacy: ‘Save Bandipur’ Movement
- Unifying Environmental Advocacy
- In response to the proposed railway project, environmentalists have coalesced under the banner ‘Save Bandipur.’
- Over the last week, protests and awareness campaigns have been organized to highlight the potential adverse impacts on Bandipur and Nagarahole national parks.
- The movement aims to bring attention to the ecological significance of these protected areas and garner public support for their preservation.
- Protests in Mysuru
- A significant protest was staged in Mysuru on February 4, led by the Gandhada Gudi Foundation, urging authorities to safeguard Bandipur forest.
- Demonstrators voiced their opposition to the railway line’s construction within the forest area, emphasizing the need for stringent measures to protect wildlife habitats.
Government Responses and Future Implications
- Government’s Stance and Forest Minister’s Assurance
- Karnataka Forest Minister’s recent visit to Bandipur Tiger Reserve raised concerns about the potential lifting of the night traffic ban.
- However, the minister assured that the ban would remain in place, prioritizing the preservation of wildlife and forests.
- This assertion aligns with the government’s commitment to maintaining the ecological balance in the region.
- Political Perspectives and Karnataka’s Position
- MP representing Mysuru-Kodagu in Parliament has urged the government to prioritize forest conservation efforts.
- However, there is a disparity in perspectives between Kerala and Karnataka, with Karnataka forest authorities stating they have not been informed about the proposed projects.
- The lack of communication raises questions about the coordination between the involved states in addressing ecological concerns.
Project Status and Future Developments
- Survey Initiatives and Lack of Information
- Despite resistance and protests, the Kerala government has initiated a survey for the railway line’s construction, according to local reports.
- However, the South Western Railway (SWR) for Mysuru claims to lack information about the project and any associated surveys.
- The ambiguity surrounding the project’s status and the absence of a unified stance between the involved states raise questions about the transparency and collaborative decision-making process.
- Historical Approval and Current Relevance
- The Planning Commission initially approved the project cost in 2010, envisioning a shortcut from Kerala to Bengaluru.
- Despite the historical approval, concerns about ecological impact persist, and the current controversy surrounding the project reflects evolving environmental sensitivities.
Conclusion: Balancing Development and Conservation
- The proposed Nilambur-Nanjangud railway line through Bandipur National Park stands at the intersection of development aspirations and environmental conservation.
- As the ‘Save Bandipur’ movement gains momentum, the balancing act between improving interstate connectivity and preserving ecologically sensitive areas becomes paramount.
- The responses from both Kerala and Karnataka, the coordination between the states, and the government’s commitment to sustainable development will shape the future trajectory of this contentious railway project.
- The Nilambur-Nanjangud line exemplifies the ongoing challenges in achieving harmony between progress and the protection of invaluable natural ecosystems.