Railway Reforms

Why the SilverLine Project makes sense for Kerala

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Intended Nationally Determined Contribution

Mains level : Paper 3- SilverLine project

Context

The SilverLine Project to be built by the government of Kerala will link Thiruvananthapuram in the south to Kasargode in the north.The project has received its share of criticism, much of it from political quarters, but also some academic sections.

Need for high-speed rail in Kerala

  • Saturated road network: For Kerala, with its saturated road network, the building of a fast, environmentally-sustainable high-speed rail link must surely be seen as a sound governance response.
  • Indeed, a study of INDC (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution) plans under the Paris Climate Agreement is instructive in this context.
  • Low-cost emission option: The EU study on mobility notes that HSR is the least-cost emission option among all modes of long-distance transportation.

The arguments against the project

  • Critics have put forward three principal lines of argument, namely, its alleged adverse environmental impact, financial unviability, and technical unsuitability.
  • Environmental impact: The most compelling environmental issue before us is climate change.
  • Building capacities now to achieve a carbon net-neutral world over the next three to four decades is a core aspect of the national strategy of all nations.
  • In this context, the SilverLine project scores high with respect to India’s own climate objective of achieving net-zero emissions by 2070.
  • Let us recall the driving forces behind Japan’s decision to develop the Shinkansen.
  • In the context of the global oil crisis, energy-insecure Japan wanted to develop a public transportation system that was energy-efficient and would also address national concerns with respect to imbalanced regional growth.
  • After the Kyoto Protocol was signed, more efforts were made to increase the speed of the various series of Shinkansen to meet the objectives of energy efficiency and CO2 reductions.
  • Financial viability: Large-scale infrastructure projects are not based on short-term financial viability considerations alone.
  • When the London Underground was conceived, it was not considered financially viable.
  • Today, London’s economic activities are inconceivable without it.
  • Green technologies that we consider cheaper than fossil fuel technologies were not initially financially viable, and were unable to survive without government subsidies.

Conclusion

There are abundant international examples of the role played by large capital-intensive infrastructure projects in the transformation of the town and country, regions, and nations.

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