No Train to Coorg

No Train to Coorg

The proposed railway track from Mysore to Kodagu, aka Coorg, is being touted as potentially imperilling

The Treacherous Terrain: Why this Road Must Not Be Taken

DP SatishDP Satish | News18.com@dp_satish

Published: December 30, 2016

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A FEW months ago, actor, activist and supermodel Milind Soman posted a photo on his Facebook page, holding a glass of water, imploring friends and family to join him on a campaign to save Cauvery.

The petition, titled "Stop the railway to Coorg, save River Cauvery & your drinking water", garnered a lot of response since. Soman opened the sluices for more celebrated faces to take up the cause of keeping the innocuous Coorg from a proposed railway connectivity.

  • The Cauvery in Coorg

    The Cauvery in Coorg (Photo: Sundar Muthanna)

One of the smallest districts in India, Kodagu aka Coorg, is not rail-linked to the rest of the country. And the proposed railway track from Mysore is being touted as potentially imperilling. Local Kodavas or Coorgs opine that a rail track would damage the ecologically-sensitive area.

  • Coorg on the map of India

    Kodagu/Coorg on the map of India (Image: Soumyadip Choudhury)

Geographically, Cauvery-the river that satiates the needs of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu-originates from Thalacauvery in Kodagu. It also irrigates millions of acres of agricultural land and generates electricity. For a railway track to be built, a considerable expanse of greenery will have to be wiped off.

  • Poomaale

    Poomaale, a local newspaper, highlighting the issue

Kodavas fear this will gradually dry the river. They urgently demand for Bengaluru to oppose the proposed project in their own interest, considering the city-with its 10 million dwellers-receives 70 per cent of its drinking water from River Cauvery.

Certain elements are trying to mislead people

— Pratap Simha, Mysore-Kodagu Lok Sabha MP

The Coorg Wildlife Society, an environmental organisation that launched a high-decibel online petition, has received solidarity in almost 20,000 signatures. It has pushed the railway ministry to take cognizance of the matter.

"I really don't know why the government is spending Rs 1,800 crore for a railway track that has been found economically unviable. Earlier studies done by the railway department, of the economic feasibility of this route, have declared that this track is not financially viable. The population of Coorg and the potential traffic of customers do not call for a railway track," Colonel Muthanna of the Coorg Wildlife Society told News18.

Kodagu (Coorg) District
Location: 11°56’ to 12°56’ north; 75°22’ to 76°11’ east
Temperature: 26.6°C (Max) 14.2°C (Min)
Average Rainfall: 2,718 mm
Major river: Cauvery
Area: 4,102 sqkm
Headquarters: Madikeri
Population: 554,519 (2011 Census)
Population Density: 134/sqkm

Despite the clamour, attempts have been made in the past to make Kodagu a part of India's railway network. CM Poonacha, a stalwart of Karnataka politics, who was the railway minister in the 1950s, was asked connect the pristine forests via rail. But, the project didn't gather his interest.

  • Cauvery River Map

    Cauvery originates from Thalacauvery in Kodagu (Image: Soumyadip Choudhury)

Erstwhile governments too, made sporadic proposals. But it has been the current government that has reiterated its steadfast desire to put Kodagu on the railway map of India.

Speaking to News18, D V Sadananda Gowda, who became the first railway minister in the Modi government said, "When I was the railways minister, I had mentioned Mysore-Kushalanagara rail link in my maiden budget. It is not as if there is a huge opposition to the project. Environmental concerns will be addressed. The government will never flout rules". Gowda is currently the Statistics and Programme Implementation Minister of India.

K H Muniyappa, a veteran Congress MP from Karnataka, who was Minister of State Railways in the Manmohan Singh government, defended the project, arguing that development can't be stopped if the antithesis is not serious in nature.

I really don't know why the government is spending Rs 1,800 crore for a railway track that has been found economically unviable.

— Col. Muthanna, Coorg Wildlife Society

According to Mysore-Kodagu Lok Sabha MP Pratap Simha, the railways ministry has already listed the aforementioned project under "New Line" at an estimated cost of Rs 667 crore. In the first stage, the 85-km track will be laid between Mysore and Kushalanagara, a border town in Kodagu district. In the second stage, the line will pass through the dense forests and ghat areas, connecting Kushalanagara with Madikeri, the district headquarter of Kodagu. The new track will pass through Belagola, Hunsur and Periyapatna in Mysore district before entering Kodagu. Simha believes it will give a boost to tourism and the socio-economic development of the region.

  • Dining car, Deccan Odyssey

    An elephant in Coorg (Photo: Gautham Machaiah)

Speaking to News18, he said, "Certain elements are trying to mislead people. Some NGOs with vested interests and myopic views are against this project. But, the proposed stretch between Mysore and Kushalanagara will pass through plain lands; there will be no question of cutting trees. It won't run anywhere near Cauvery river till Kushalanagara. Only if the Centre extends the track from Kushalanagara to Madikeri, will the trees be cut. Before opposing, they need to know these basic things about the project".

  • Dining car, Deccan Odyssey

    Flowers bloom in the jungles of Coorg (Photo: Gautham Machaiah)

But environmentalists fear once the train enters Kodagu, it will be linked to Bengaluru-Mangalore railway track near Subramanya in the neighbouring Dakshina Kannada district, and it won't stop at Kushalanagara, as MP Simha assures.

"The entire Kodagu district is a densely-forested area. We are sure the rail link will ruin the evergreen forests, causing irreparable damage to the ecology, flora and fauna. We don't need a train. We are happy without it," Devika Devaiah of Save Cauvery, said.

(Produced by Soumyadip Choudhury)

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