The Supreme Court’s Central Empowerment Committee (CEC), raising serious environmental concerns, has red-flagged a key rail expansion project in Goa and recommended crucial changes.
The CEC, in its report dated April 23, as per The Indian Express said it does not find any justification in doubling the railway track from Castle Rock in Karnataka to Kulem in Goa as “it will destroy the fragile ecosystem of the Western Ghats which is an internationally recognized biodiversity hotspot and also one of the most important wildlife corridor of the country”.
As such, the CEC recommended that the alignment of the Goa-Tanmar Transmission Project for laying of electric lines for additional 400 KV feed to Goa be redrawn and modified along the existing 220 KV line. This will “help in saving the precious forest cover and wildlife in the ecologically fragile and biodiversity rich. On the four-laning of NH 4A from Anmod near the Karnataka border to Mollem, the CEC recommended that the height of the road be increased to minimize animal road kills and man-animal conflict, and suggested modifications.
Moreover, the Committee in its 110-page report asked the Supreme Court to consider revoking the permission granted by the SC-NBWL for the double tracking project. It said the project will only be marginally enhancing the capacity of the most inefficient section of the Railway Network passing through ecologically sensitive and biodiversity rich Tiger Reserve, Two Wildlife Sanctuaries and a National Park. Furthermore, the CEC observed that the estimate of projected increase in traffic from Karnataka to Goa furnished by the Railways is not based on facts and is without any sound reasoning and as statistics show, mostly includes empty rakes returning to Goa and that despite the change in policy on import of coal, the same has not been reflected in the projected traffic from Goa to Karnataka.
It stated that during its site visit to Mormugao Port Trust, and as confirmed by the Railways in their response to the CEC, recently revised policy of Government of India does not support import of coal and the new policy encourages use of indigenously mined coal. The CEC said that the increased number of trains and wider openings through the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats for laying the track will further fragment the habitat and will make the movement of wildlife including arboreal animals across the railway line much more difficult and dangerous.