Recently Union Minister Nitin Gadkari launched a 2.16-km bridge connecting the pilgrimage spot of Sigandur to the mainland across the Sharavathi river. Along with the bridge, the approach road from Sagar will be widened.
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Barely a few kilometres away, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) — in 2016 — proposed a ₹2,100-crore, 168-km road connecting National Highway 66 (Mangaluru to Karwar) to National Highway 48 (Bengaluru-Mumbai).
NH766C will see the diversion of more than 362 acres of prime forest land, including the fragile Mookambika Wildlife Sanctuary. The widened Sigandur road will eventually meet this.
- These projects are just in a long line of road and railway projects that will cut through the eco-sensitive forests of the Western Ghats. For locals, however, much of these are unnecessary.
- Immediately after Mr. Gadkari’s announcement, Akhilesh Chippali and 10 other activists spent five days enumerating the environmental costs of the Sigandur bridge and road-widening. “Even considering 25m width of the road, as announced by the Minister, over 3 lakh trees, saplings and plants will be levelled
- projects will lead to the isolation of forest patches.
- “Roads through Mookambika will end up bifurcating populations of lion-tailed macaques who will not be able to traverse easily across the road
- Such wide roads are not needed in hilly areas where there is low population,
- Paschima Ghatta Jagruta Vedike has been protesting the expansion of Shivamogga-Mangaluru road.
- NHAI or Indian Railways has cited “stimulating growth” and “access to ports” for iron ore mines in Ballari as justification for the projects
- In all, MoEF clearance and wildlife board data shows that applications are pending for the diversion of more than 42 sq. km of State’s forests since 2012, apart from 15 sq. km, which have been granted.
- Of these, nearly a third are in the districts along the Western Ghats, while Ballari, where applications for mining are seeing large-scale diversion of land, tops the list with over 14 sq. km of forest land in the process of being diverted.
- Of the 378 projects that have applied for forest clearance, 70 are for roads and railways.
- In Belagavi district, National Highway 4A widening is claiming 38,000 trees and 210 acres of forest land; while, the controversial Hubballi-Ankola line project will clear 1.73 lakh trees in 1,472 acre of forest land
- In the same region, doubling of the track through Tinaighat–Castle Rock line will further claim 28.04 acres of land.
Do you know about Western ghats?
- Western Ghats also known as Sahyadri (Benevolent Mountains) is a mountain range that runs parallel to the western coast of the Indian peninsula, located entirely in India.
- It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the eight "hottest hot-spots" of biological diversity in the world.
- It is sometimes called the Great Escarpment of India.
- The range runs north to south along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau, and separates the plateau from a narrow coastal plain, called Konkan, along the Arabian Sea.
- A total of thirty-nine properties including national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests were designated as world heritage sites - twenty in Kerala, ten in Karnataka, five in Tamil Nadu and four in Maharashtra.
- The range starts near the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, south of the Tapti river, and runs approximately 1,600 km (990 mi) through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu ending at Swamithoppe, near Kanyakumari, at the southern tip of India.
- These hills cover 160,000 km2 (62,000 sq mi) and form the catchment area for complex riverine drainage systems that drain almost 40% of India.
- The Western Ghats block southwest monsoon winds from reaching the Deccan Plateau.
- The average elevation is around 1,200 m (3,900 ft)