from the Times of India
COIMBATORE: A day after the Union railway budget revived the controversial proposal to lay a broad-gauge railway line through the jungles of Sathyamangalam, connecting Mettuppalayam with Chamarajnagar, the local community joined hands against the project, as it would spell trouble for the huge elephant population in the area. They are demanding an alternative route to ensure rail connectivity to Sathyamangalam.
“It would be a sheer waste of public money to invest in a project that hinders conservation. Why can’t the railway ministry initiate an alternative route that links Sathyamangalam with Erode and Mettuppalayam,” asks P L Sundaram, MLA. Most areas falling under the proposed rail route between Chamarajnagar and Sathymangalam are part of the Bhavani Sagar assembly constituency to which Sundaram belongs.
“The impact on the ecology and environment would be minimal if a rail route from Erode to Mettuppalayam via Sathyamangalam got implemented. As Erode is a major railway junction in the South and Mettupalayam is an entry point for Coimbatore and Nilgiris, it would be a far better option than laying a rail line through the wildlife sanctuary,” he said. The MLA also warned against unilateral implementation of the controversial project as it would affect the livelihood of traditional forest dwellers.
“My party(CPI) will unite all democratic forces to fight against the project if Railways plans to go ahead with it. I am not sure it is economically viable as the line will run through the backward areas of Thalavadi, Ghermalam and Bannari where most inhabitants would not be able to afford train travel. The proposed route is an expensive project as it requires several tunnels and bridges. Connection with Mettupalayam and Erode would help Sathyamangalam residents reach Chennai, Salem and Coimbatore,” he said.
Social activist K Karuppuswamy also mooted the alternative project linking Sathyamangalam with Mettupalayam and Erode. This would be wiser and economical. We can protect wildlife and ensure connectivity. Those who wish to go to Mysore and Bangalore can travel through Salem if a rail route links Sathyamangalam with Erode,” he said.
The revived proposal was initially prepared way back in 1915 to link Palani with Chamrajanagar. It was planned via Kangeyam, Erode, Gobichettipalayam and Sathyamangalam. The British had conducted surveys in 1922, 1936 and 1942 and survey stones were also laid for the proposed railway line. But after Independence the scheme did not take off and was rejected later amid concerns over destruction of forests and wildlife,” said Karuppuswamy.