‘Kozhikode-Wayanad tunnel road project could aggravate human-wildlife conflict’

The ambitious Anakkampoyil-Kalladi-Meppadi twin tunnel road project connecting Kozhikode with Wayanad has run into rough weather with the State Expert Appraisal Committee warning that the project could escalate human-wildlife conflicts.

The expert panel has expressed concern over the four-lane proposal when it was evaluating the application for environmental clearance. “The committee noted that there is every possibility of aggressive human-wildlife conflict,” according to the minutes of the meeting held last month. This came when the State government was going ahead with the tendering process. Konkan Railway Corporation Limited had floated tenders for the ₹2,043.74-crore project with an aim to make it a reality in four years. The proposed length of the tunnel is 8.753 km. The project has obtained stage-1 forest clearance for the diversion of 17 ha of forestland.

‘No solution proposed’

The committee noted that no solution was proposed for reducing the impact of human-wildlife conflict in Wayanad. Any barrier at the proposed tunnel mouth in the Meppadi area would force the elephants to utilise other routes.

These routes pass through the Kalladi colony and nearby settlements, which are more populated. Such a situation could lead to increased human-elephant friction and potentially conflict situations. Consequently, there is no way to avoid the movement of elephants to Kuppachi forest through the populated colonies once the tunnel mouth area is blocked. The area also reports endangered bird species such as Banasura Chilappan and Nilgiri Sholakili.

There are four tribal colonies located within 500 metres to 1.5 km of the proposed tunnel road on the northern side.

The committee has also sought clarification on the Environmental Impact Assessment studies. Besides, it also observed that the proposed tunnel is close to Puthumala, where a massive destructive landslip occurred in 2019.

Further, the tunnel alignment passes through highly fragile terrain prone to landslips, necessitating precautions during the construction stage to avert vibration-induced landslips, it pointed out.

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