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What is Kerala’s SilverLine Rail Project?

Nov 29, 2022

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Today we will discuss Kerala’s SilverLine Rail Project in our today's edition of Current Affairs. Read further to upgrade your UPSC CSE knowledge and also understand the topic’s relevance to the UPSC syllabus.

For Prelims: Polity and Governance, Economy 

Social impact assessment (SIA), Silverline Project, Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL).

For Mains: GS Paper II: Government Policies and Interventions

 GS Paper III: Economy & Developmental Challenges

About the Silverline Project, Need of the K-Rail, Causes For the Protests Against the Silverline Project.

Context

Recently the Kerala government has decided to redeploy the revenue officials to conduct a social impact assessment (SIA) study for land acquisition regarding the SilverLine rail corridor project.

Probable Question

The Kerala Government’s Silverline Project has faced protests by several political parties and locals. Explain the project and its significance. (150 words, 10 marks)

About the Silverline Project

  • It is the proposed 529.45-km railway line.
  • The proposed line will link Thiruvananthapuram in the south to Kasaragod in the north, covering 11 districts through 11 stations within four hours, at a speed of 200 km/hr.
  • The project is being executed by the Kerala Rail Development Corporation Limited (KRDCL).
  • The deadline for the project is 2025. 
Note:KRDCL, or K-Rail, is a joint venture between the Kerala government and the Union Ministry of Railways created to execute big railway projects.

Need of the K-Rail

  • Meeting Demands: It has been argued that the existing railway infrastructure in Kerala cannot meet the demands of the future. 
  • Traffic Loads: The government claims the SilverLine project can take a significant load of traffic off, make travel faster for commuters and reduce congestion on roads.
  • Improved Quality: Proponents point to the benefits of fast high-quality connectivity. 
  • Pollution Reduction: The new rail line will reduce the traffic and the vast majority of passenger cars, which are leading to intense pollution and causing accidents.
  • Growth: The growth of Kerala cities and census town is limited geographically, thus there is a substantial need to accommodate high-rises for its residential and commercial demand.
  • Tourism: Kerala will benefit from its large tourism industry due to the efficient movement of visitors between destinations at economic rates.
  • Other Benefits: If there is an annual 5-10% conversion of vehicular traffic to electric engines, it would arguably keep the road transport corridor as well as the rail and waterway tracks reasonably patent, efficient, and carbon neutral.

Causes For the Protests Against the Silverline Project

  • Displacement of Families: A petition was filed, claiming that the project was financially unviable and would lead to the displacement of over 30,000 families.
  • Environmental Concerns: Activists have alleged environmental harm as the route cuts through precious wetlands, paddy fields, and hills. 
  • Improper Planning: The project is said as “ill-conceived” and defectively planned. Further, it is said that there is a need for a lot of correction, including its basic track width.
  • Financing: Critics largely cite the burden of debt financing of the project which could impact State finances substantially, potentially pressuring a variety of other investments. 
  • Flood: Kerala’s steep drainage is oriented east to west, and many speculate that the embankment may enhance the intensity of ambient flooding although the project provides leeways every 500 meters.

Way Forward

  • The SilverLine is, however, exclusively insufficient to answer the State’s traffic crisis. Kerala needs to harmoniously develop its eco-friendly waterways which can decongest the clogged highways by another 15%.
  • Kerala needs an integrated sectoral appraisal and synthesis of its competing traffic corridor proposals viewed simultaneously as civic amenities and investment projects. 
  • A progressive and knowledgeable society like Kerala should engage in meaningful parleys rather than take part in highly polarized debates, leaving no space for the nuances to be explored. The present discourse, therefore, needs to deepen and broaden simultaneously.
  • The government can prioritize several other projects deserving of public investment, such as the transition to a steady power supply based on green energy, the provision of safe drinking water and urban sewerage, and building infrastructure for the scientific disposal of waste. 

News Source: The Indian Express

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/what-is-keralas-silverline-rail-project-government-recalled-officials-8294757/

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-silverline-project-is-anti-development/article38288549.ece

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/a-train-to-unite-kerala/article38284064.ece

Accelerate your IAS preparation with this detailed video by Vivek Singh sir wherein he explains state-wise SEZs: 

https://youtu.be/tiy-BxhAJZ4

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