Coffee hub Kodagu yet to come on rail map after decades

Updated on Aug 26, 2022 11:57 PM IST

Rail connectivity to Kodagu, the coffee-growing district of Karnataka, remains an elusive affair despite several assurances from government, forcing it to rely on road transport for all its businesses.

Pratap Simha, the two-term parliamentarian from Mysuru-Kodagu Lok Sabha seat, has made several promises to bring rail-connectivity and even went as far as to state that he would not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha election if he was unsuccessful in the effort. But little has moved on ground on his promise, even though he continues to contest the polls. (ANI)
Pratap Simha, the two-term parliamentarian from Mysuru-Kodagu Lok Sabha seat, has made several promises to bring rail-connectivity and even went as far as to state that he would not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha election if he was unsuccessful in the effort. But little has moved on ground on his promise, even though he continues to contest the polls. (ANI)
ByCoovercolly Indresh, Madikeri (kodagu)

Rail connectivity to Kodagu, the coffee-growing district of Karnataka, remains an elusive affair despite several assurances from government, forcing it to rely on road transport for all its businesses.

Just 225 km from Bengaluru and under 90 km from Mysuru, Kodagu was, in the past, one of the highest contributors of revenue to the state and union coffers on account of its coffee, pepper, spices and tourism.

Pratap Simha, the two-term parliamentarian from Mysuru-Kodagu Lok Sabha seat, has made several promises to bring rail-connectivity and even went as far as to state that he would not contest the 2019 Lok Sabha election if he was unsuccessful in the effort. But little has moved on ground on his promise, even though he continues to contest the polls.

“The project was delayed after railway officers submitted a report that it is economically not viable and for obtaining environmental clearances. Again, two companies abandoned work of FLS causing delay. But now everything is cleared and work of FLS (final location survey) will resume soon,” Simha told HT.

He said the union government has allocated 1,000 crore in the 2022-23 budget and reiterated that the dream (of his) to get rail connectivity to the district would soon be realised.

A coffee-growing region with hills, the birthplace of river Cauvery and nestled in the lap of Western Ghats, this district has seen both sides of the rail argument with environmentalists and several locals opposing the project which would further endanger the green cover and fragile ecology.

In 2011, KH Muniyappa, then the railway minister, announced connectivity to Kodagu and also launched the first stage of preliminary survey works the following years. The department completed a preliminary engineering-cum-traffic survey between Mysore-Kushalnagar in four months and the project cost estimated at 6,51.4 crore.

However, even after a decade, works are yet to be taken up as it may not be feasible in terms of traffic density.

The construction wing of the South West Railways awarded the tender for FLS in the year 2020 to Hyderabad-based company called Mata Constructions and Builders Limited to conduct the survey but the company abandoned the work and left mid-way. The second time, the tender was awarded to Aerial Construction (P) limited only to meet the result as the contractor before them.

In July, the SWR awarded the tender to Bangalore-based Sipra Infrastructure Development Private Limited for 1.65 crore. The period for completion of work is 6 months. The company is yet to commence work and has cited rain as the cause of delay.

“After completion of FLS, we could know the exact amount of the project, number of bridges and number of railway stations to be constructed and other infrastructure works. As per railway estimation the project cost went up to 1,852 crore and exact amount could be known only after FLS,” an official from the SWR’s Mysuru division said, requesting not to be named.

With almost 80% of the coffee produced in the district exported, the region’s industries have also shared their concerns over the delay.

“Most of the coffee produced in Kodagu is being exported through Cochin, Mangaluru and Chennai ports in trucks. If there is railway connectivity, we can send our produce directly through containers and potentially save 50% in transport costs,” said SL Sathappan of the Kushalnagar-based SLN coffee curing and exporters.

Each year, over 2 million people visit Kodagu and this has increased vehicular traffic to the region as well as mushrooming of homestays and other accommodation.

“Approximately 20 lakh tourists visit the district which is also called Kashmir of the south. At least 10-25% of this number are people from other states. Railway connectivity would make it easier for tourists,” said HB Raghavendra, a tourism department official.

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