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No Train to Coorg: Why this Road Must Not Be Taken

A FEW months ago, actor, activist and supermodel Milind Soman posted a photo on his Facebook page, holding a glass of water, imploring friends and family to join him on a campaign to save Cauvery.

The petition, titled “Stop the railway to Coorg, save River Cauvery & your drinking water”, garnered a lot of response since. Soman opened the sluices for more celebrated faces to take up the cause of keeping the innocuous Coorg from a proposed railway connectivity.

One of the smallest districts in India, Kodagu aka Coorg, is not rail-linked to the rest of the country. And the proposed railway track from Mysore is being touted as potentially imperilling. Local Kodavas or Coorgs opine that a rail track would damage the ecologically-sensitive area.

Geographically, Cauvery-the river that satiates the needs of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu-originates from Thalacauvery in Kodagu. It also irrigates millions of acres of agricultural land and generates electricity. For a railway track to be built, a considerable expanse of greenery will have to be wiped off.

Kodavas fear this will gradually dry the river. They urgently demand for Bengaluru to oppose the proposed project in their own interest, considering the city-with its 10 million dwellers-receives 70 per cent of its drinking water from River Cauvery.

Certain elements are trying to mislead people

— Pratap Simha, Mysore-Kodagu Lok Sabha MP

The Coorg Wildlife Society, an environmental organisation that launched a high-decibel online petition, has received solidarity in almost 20,000 signatures. It has pushed the railway ministry to take cognizance of the matter.

“I really don’t know why the government is spending Rs 1,800 crore for a railway track that has been found economically unviable. Earlier studies done by the railway department, of the economic feasibility of this route, have declared that this track is not financially viable. The population of Coorg and the potential traffic of customers do not call for a railway track,” Colonel Muthanna of the Coorg Wildlife Society told News18.

Kodagu (Coorg) District
Location: 11°56’ to 12°56’ north; 75°22’ to 76°11’ east
Temperature: 26.6°C (Max) 14.2°C (Min)
Average Rainfall: 2,718 mm
Major river: Cauvery
Area: 4,102 sqkm
Headquarters: Madikeri
Population: 554,519 (2011 Census)
Population Density: 134/sqkm

Despite the clamour, attempts have been made in the past to make Kodagu a part of India’s railway network. CM Poonacha, a stalwart of Karnataka politics, who was the railway minister in the 1950s, was asked connect the pristine forests via rail. But, the project didn’t gather his interest.

Erstwhile governments too, made sporadic proposals. But it has been the current government that has reiterated its steadfast desire to put Kodagu on the railway map of India.