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Current Affairs

Road tunnel beneath Western Ghats

Date: 08 October 2020 Tags: Infrastructure

Issue

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has launched a tunnel road project that would connect Kozhikode with Wayanad. 

 

Background

The launch actually meant the beginning of a survey and fixing the final alignment ahead of the detailed project report.

 

Details

  • The 7-km tunnel is being described as the third-longest in the country and is part of an 8-km road cutting through sensitive forests and hills of the Western Ghats.

  • Its endpoints are at Maripuzha in Thiruvambady village panchayat (Kozhikode) and Kalladi in Meppadi panchayat (Wayanad).

  • At present, Wayanad plateau is linked to the rest of Kerala via four roads, all with hilly sections, the longest being the 13-km Thamarassery Ghat Road along the Kozhikode-Mysuru NH 766.

  • The tunnel road is an outcome of a decades-long campaign for an alternative road as the Thamarassery Ghat Road is congested and gets blocked by landslides during heavy monsoon.

  • At the very route of the proposed tunnel road, a surface road had been debated since the 1970s, but did not take off because forest land was involved.

  • The planners found the surface road an uphill task, but suggested cutting a tunnel with entry and exit points in private lands close to the forest.

  • The government has engaged KRC as a special purpose vehicle for the survey, DPR and project execution on a turnkey basis.

  • It has given administrative sanction for the project earlier this year and promised Rs 658 crore from Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB).

  • The Forest Department has identified the proposed route as a highly sensitive patch comprising evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, marsh lands and shola tracts.

  • This region is part of an elephant corridor spread between Wayanad and Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu.  Major rivers of the region have their origin nearby.

  • Proponents of the project have been stressing that the tunnel will not destroy forest (trees). The MoEFCC guidelines state that the Forest Act would apply not only to surface area, but the entire underground area beneath the trees.

  • Forest officials, meanwhile, are yet to get applications from KRC for conducting the survey, which is now outside the forest land.