March 1, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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CONTROVERSIAL RAILWAY PROJECT: ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS SURROUNDING NILAMBUR-NANJANGUD LINE

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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.

EXPLANATION:

  • 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.

SOURCE: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/environment/plan-for-nilambur-nanjangud-railway-line-through-bandipur-national-park-evokes-protests-over-ecological-impact-94373

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