Why environmental activists are opposing alternate roads to Wayanad

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An aerial view of the Ghat Road connecting Wayanad and Kozhikode. File photo: Manorama

Wayanad: While the campaign for construction of alternative roads to Wayanad from Kozhikode gathers momentum in the wake of recurring traffic snarl-ups on Wayanad Ghat road, environmental activists are vehemently opposing the suggestion.

The Greens argue that vested interest groups including land mafia cartels are behind the demand. They argue that these groups overturned the expansion project of the Ghat Road, despite the sanction of sufficient forest land by Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF).

Wayanad Prakrithi Samrakshana Samithy (WPSS), the major green organization in the district said in a press release, on Tuesday stated that by-pass tunnels roads and alternative roads will not provide a lasting solution to traffic blocks on ghat road.  Political leaders are acting hand-in-glove with vested interest groups who have purchased large tracts of land in the Western Ghat region where alternate roads are suggested, the release alleged.

“Though central government cleared sufficient land for widening the ghat road, the state government is yet to utilize the land. If the land allotted is insufficient, political parties should pressurize the central government to bag sufficient land for widening of the road,” the release said.

Moreover, the Kozhikode-Kuttiady-Pakramthalam road, an existing but less popular alternative road which requires no forest land for expansion, could be widened and strengthened. The expansion of the road could be even done on BOT (Build Operate and Transfer) basis in order to ensure speedy completion, the release said.

Tunnel road moves through red zone of Western Ghats
The Greens also alleged that the envisaged tunnel road will be constructed through the landslide-prone ‘red zone’ of the Western Ghats.

The Puthumala landslide zone, where 17 people lost their lives in an avalanche on August 9, 2019, also exists in the same geological zone of the Meppady panchayat where the tunnel road ends.  The region witness countless minor landslides every monsoon.  

Partial ban for heavy vehicles, merely an eye-wash
Heavy vehicles now facing restrictions should be banned entirely for the day starting from 6 am to 12 midnight every day, the release said.

Kozhikode District Collector Snehil Kumar Singh had issued an order on Saturday imposing new traffic restrictions for huge transporting vehicles on the Wayanad Ghats road on all public holidays and on Fridays preceding a second Saturday, from 3 pm to 9 pm. The restrictions would be also in place on all Mondays from 6 am to 9 am.

Expand and strengthen Ghat Road
The Nilgiri-Wayanad Railway and National Highway Action Council also called for the widening of the ghat road instead of batting for prolonged as well as costly construction projects through the ecologically sensitive zones.

“All panchayats adjacent to Western Ghats are now campaigning for one or the other road to Wayanad, as all of them need a  connecting road to Wayanad through their panchayat,” Action Council convener Adv TM Rasheed told Onmanorama.

“They invite experts from Konkan Railway Corporation and from Netherlands to study the viability of tunnel road but not for strengthening and widening of Ghat Road,” he added.

Rasheed also said that if necessary a tunnel could be built from the seventh bend of Ghat road to Thalippuzha near Lakkidy which would take less than 2 km.

'There are no campaigns for such simple and easier projects as no vested interest groups are there to work for such easy solutions,' he said.


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