Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who countered opposition charges, said that the project will be a game changer in Kerala. “The project was envisaged in such a way that places of worship, paddy field and biodiversity in the 11 districts through which it passes are least affected. Only 9,314 buildings will be affected by the project,” he said.
Vijayan said that the project was aligned in such a way that it passes through the least densely-populated areas and the claims that it would destroy the economic conditions of the state were baseless. “There are no governments in the world that do not avail loans for infrastructure development. The reduction of travelling time to one-fourth will boost business, technical and tourism sectors of state,” he said.
While on the Kasaragod-Tirur stretch, the line passes parallel to the existing rail track, from Tirur to Thiruvananthapuram, the alignment was designed to avoid paddy land and wetlands. Of the 115km of paddy land through which the line passes, 88km is an elevated stretch, he said. At the same time, the opposition focussed on the adverse impact the project would have on the fragile ecology of the state.
“Kerala is already reeling under a series of natural disasters. The project – 55% for which embankments of 15-30m width and 4-10 m height have to be constructed –will divide the state into two. The government’s project report states that it may lead to soil piping, landslides. There will also be change in the land use pattern for 500m on either side of the project line,” Satheesan said.
He added that not only these adversities, but huge quantities of rock and earth the project would require will lead to destruction of Western Ghats to a large extent. Satheesan added that the project report also said that there are 164 hydrologically-sensitive areas on the project route. On one hand, the CM talks about initiatives like room for rivers when floods hit the state and such projects will lead to barricading the natural course of water, he said.
Seeking a leave for adjournment motion on the matter, IUML leader MK Muneer said that such unviable projects aren’t required. He added that projects like suburban rail that are cost-effective and viable will suit Kerala.
“We are not against development projects. But we need to discuss alternatives,” he said, adding that painting anyone who is fighting for their survival as extremists, Maoists or agents of right-wing forces is not the right method of dealing with issues.
Opposition later staged a walkout after speaker MB Rajesh refused to admit the adjournment motion on the basis of the explanation given by the chief minister.