Why K-Rail Should Seriously Consider SC’s Latest Green Verdict on Castlerock-Kulem Rail Looping

The constitutional principles of “sustainable development” and “precaution” invoked by the Supreme Court on May 9 to refuse authorization for the doubling works between Castlerock in Karnataka and Kulem in Goa could affect the SilverLine Rs-64 project 000-cr.

Disregard for environmental concerns and unreliable traffic plans, two major criticisms leveled at the SilverLine, are among the factors that caused the Supreme Court, in its May 9 order, to revoke the National Board of Wildlife’s approval ( NBWL) for the Castlerock-Kulem loop. .

The Castlerock-Kulem line is 26 km long and includes 120,875 hectares of forest land. It is true that the Castlerock-Kulem line runs through the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats, while the SilverLine does not. However, the Supreme Court pointed out certain ecological principles that should be considered sacrosanct when pursuing any development project in the country.

One is adherence to the principle of sustainable development. The Supreme Court, in its order, said it was a constitutional requirement. The court pointed to a maxim it stated in 2008 in the case of TN Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India: “While applying the principle of sustainable development, one should keep in mind that development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Therefore, courts are required to balance development needs with the protection of the environment and ecology.

In another of its landmark decisions, in Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board v. Teacher. to meet its obligation of sustainable development based on intergenerational equity. This means that current development should not disrupt future lives.

The “precautionary principle” is the other major pillar of environmentally sensitive growth envisaged by the law. The May 9 order reemphasizes the principle, first expressed in the 1996 verdict of Vellore Citizens’ Welfare Forum v. Union of India.

The principle has three aspects. First, environmental measures—taken by state government and statutory authorities—must anticipate, prevent, and address the causes of environmental degradation. Second, where there are threats of serious and irreversible damage, lack of scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation. Thirdly, the “burden of proof” rests with the actor or the developer/industrialist to show that his action is respectful of the environment.

SilverLine critics have relentlessly called on the Kerala Rail Development Corporation (K-Rail) to demonstrate how the new north-south autonomous railway line would not intensify Kerala’s already alarming propensity to flooding. A scientifically convincing explanation has yet to be advanced. The SilverLine DPR itself indicates that a full hydrological study was not carried out.

The decree of May 9, as if to sound the alarm to development hawks, said that if there was a conflict between ecology and growth, ecology would prevail. This principle was established in 2004, in the case of MC Mehta v. Union of India.

In this case, the Supreme Court depicts a situation in which a state is caught in a situation similar to that of a “Catch-22”. There may be irreparable damage to the environment after an activity is allowed to continue and if it is stopped there may be irreparable damage to economic interests. The Court held that in case of doubt, the protection of the environment would take precedence over the economic interest.

The SC refused permission to overtake Castlerock-Kulem despite assurances given by the Ministry of Railways. The court was told that railway bridges and road underbridges would be built for the passage of animals. (The Empowered Central Committee, upon its inspection, found that no such underpass could be constructed at this location.)

The court was also assured that there would be no further disturbance in the forest area as no separate paths would be built in the forest area for the transport of goods and machinery which would be carried out in the most environmentally efficient manner. .

The traffic data provided by the promoters was also called into question by the Court. “There is also no credible data to support the projections provided by RVNL (Rail Vikas Nigam Limited) for traffic between the Karnataka project and Goa for the period 2022-2023 and 2030-2031 and there is no There is no explanation regarding the expected traffic for the next 4-5 years required to complete the construction of the project.”

In the case of SilverLine, its traffic forecast of 80,000 passengers per day from the first day of operation has been hotly disputed. The projection for the busier Surat-Ahmedabad high-speed rail is much lower.

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