the construction of a long pending railway line from Hubli to Ankola, Karnataka, has been stayed by the Supreme Court's Central Empowered Committee (cec) for violating the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 (fca). The 168-km broad-gauge line, earlier the Hubli-Karwar project, will cost an approximate Rs 1,153.08 crore and require 1,384.40 hectares (ha) of land, of which 965 ha is reserved forest and 173 ha categorised as wetland. The Union ministry of environment and forests rejected the project proposal a few months back under the fca. The Karnataka chief conservator of forests says the project will harm the hydro-logical system of major rivers in the Western Ghats.
But even without the approval of the centre, work on the project, a joint venture between the ministry of railways and the Karnataka Rail Infrastructure Development Enterprise, has commenced 40 km of the stretch. This stretch includes 1.1 km of forest land, for which the proposal has been rejected. Under fca, in case a proposal for diversion of forest land is rejected, work cannot begin even on non-forest land. Besides, this track is meant only for freight. It will help only the iron and manganese mines of the Bellary-Hospet region for transportation of minerals to Goa, Tadri and Dharwar ports. The Bellary region is known for rampant illegal iron ore mining. Reports say only 64 mining leases have been issued here. But 12,000 cases of illegal mining have been reported since 2000. As of now, construction has been stayed. The ministries and Karnataka have been asked to respond.
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