What is the Kozhikode-Wayanad Tunnel Project?

  • The 7-km tunnel, being described as the third-longest in the country, is part of an 8-km road cutting through sensitive forests and hills of the Western Ghats.
  • Its endpoints are at Maripuzha in Thiruvambady village panchayat (Kozhikode) and Kalladi in Meppadi panchayat (Wayanad).
  • The tunnel is an outcome of a decades-long campaign for an alternative road as the Thamarassery Ghat Road is congested and gets blocked by landslides during heavy monsoon.

Impact on the ecology of the region :

  • The Forest Department has identified the proposed route as a highly sensitive patch comprising evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, marshlands and shola tracts.
  • This region is part of an elephant corridor spread between Wayanad and Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu.
  • Two major rivers, Chaliyar and Kabani that flows to Karnataka, originate from these hills in Wayanad.
  • Eruvazhanjipuzha, a tributary of Chaliyar and the lifeline of settlements in Malappuram and Kozhikode, begins in the other side of the hills.
  • The region, known for torrential rain during the monsoon, has witnessed several landslides, including in 2019 at Kavalappura near Nilambur and at Puthumala, Meppadi in Wayanad.

What are the Environmental clearance issues involved with the project?

  • Proponents of the project have been stressing that the tunnel will not destroy forest (trees).
  • The MoEFCC guidelines state that the Forest Act would apply not only to surface area but the entire underground area beneath the trees.
  • For tunnel projects, conditions relating to underground mining would be applicable.
  • As the proposed tunnel is 7 km long, it will require emergency exit points and air ventilation wells among other measures, which would impact the forest further.

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