I have been travelling between Bangalore and Mangalore for several decades now. The road passes through the Western Ghats, one of the biological hotspots of the world and repository to millions of species of flora and fauna. Though there is a railway line that connects the two cities, the train runs really slow and takes 9 1/2 hours while buses take 7 1/2 hours and one can reach Mangalore from Bangalore n about 5/12 hours in a good car. There is also a petroleum refinery and hundreds of trucks carrying petrol, diesel and LPG ply between the cities. In short, it’s a crowded highway. The road between Bangalore and Hassan (mid point) is a 2 track, 4 lane express way. After Hassan,it becomes a single track, 2 lane road that winds through coffee estates and dense rain forests before reaching Mangalore. Now this part – a total length of about 133Km is being widened. The total cost of this exercise is supposed to be Rs.1500 crores. According to a document available on the website of Karnataka Pollution Control Board – “Tree enumeration was carried out by the Forest Department, Karnataka and 8996 & 15361 trees shall be affected in Mangalore & Hassan Forest Divisions respectively. Other than these, a total of 54921 small shrubs, young trees less than 16 cm girth, canes and Bamboo clumps are also likely to be affected.” The document which is available here makes some vague comments about the Environmental Impact Assessment done.
One doesn’t have to elaborate on the need to preserve rainforests. Yet, here is what Rain Forest Conservation Fund Says –
“Comprising only 6% of the world’s surface area, rainforests contain one-half to three-quarters of the earth’s species of plants and animals. This is in part because the groups of organisms which contain the most species (arthropods and flowering plants) are found in high concentrations in tropical forests. In fact, a land area of 0.5 km2 in some tropical forests contains more tree species than does the entire land mass of Europe and North America combined. (http://www.rainforestconservation.org/rainforest-primer/2-biodiversity/b-how-much-biodiversity-is-found-in-tropical-rainforests/)
Is there a need to widen this road? – Well Prima facie – yes there is. The traffic on this sector is very heavy. Could this have been avoided with some good planning? Yes it could have been een by good train connectivity. It can still be done by running high speed trains and increasing the frequency of trains and widening the roads only at some places. There is an underground pipe line that transports LPG from Mangalore to Bangalore, yet hundreds of trucks ply on this route everyday. I wonder why?
There is a systematic assault on the Western Ghats these days to benefit that one species with over 6 billion of it’s kind – us, humans. Roads to help us move quicker and for drinking water. Thousands of crores are being spent mindlessly.