Wildlife Board nod to rail tracks through protected Western Ghats
The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has given its nod to Tinaighat-Castlerock-Caranzol railway doubling project. The project is likely to involve diversion of 10.45 ha of forest land of which 9.57 ha is in Dandeli wildlife sanctuary in Karnataka’s Western Ghats.
“Happy to inform that in its 60th meeting, NBWL has recommended the proposal for Tinaighat-Castlerock-Caranzol Railway doubling of southwestern railways, Karnataka with certain mitigation measures as advised by the Wildlife Institute of India,” tweeted Union environment minister, Prakash Javadekar on Wednesday. The minutes of the meeting are yet to be published.
According to a note by the Southwestern Railways, the existing railway single line between Hospet and Vasco was laid in 1900 and connects industrial areas in Hospet and Marmugoa port and various tourist places in Goa and Karnataka. Due to industrial growth and increase in tourists, the single line is saturated.
According to a site inspection report by forest department published on the environment ministry’s Parivesh website, the area covering both Kali Tiger Reserve and Anshi Wildlife Division, harbours tigers, leopards, gaur, sambar etc and is endemic to Castlerock Night Frog. There are already Alnavar-Londa Vasco and Londa Khanapur railway lines in the region where many wildlife casualties have been reported due to train accidents. The proposal will involve the loss of 5,413 trees in Kali Tiger Reserve alone. The doubling of the railway line is mainly proposed for transport of coal according to the report.
“The project was vehemently opposed by wildlife scientists in Karnataka and by some members of the Karnataka Wildlife Board also. The rail line will pass through a very eco-sensitive region. It also runs parallel to the NH4A which is being expanded. The two projects together will be a death knell for wildlife and biodiversity here,” said a senior wildlife scientist from Karnataka on condition of anonymity.
“The Castlerock area was included in the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary in 2011 due to its ecological importance as it holds tigers, dholes and several other endangered wildlife species. It connects Dandeli to Bhimghad Wildlife Sanctuary. Adjoining Castlerock are the protected areas in Goa hence it is one of the largest contiguous wildlife habitats in central Western Ghats. It also acts as watershed for several of our streams, rivers and dams,” said Sanjay Gubbi, Conservation Biologist.