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On a green track

Context:

The Kerala Government is planning to built the SilverLine Project that will link Thiruvananthapuram in the south to Kasargode in the north.

Relevance:

GS-III: Infrastructure, Government Policies & Interventions.

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The SilverLine Project
  2. What are the criticisms?
  3. High Speed Rail Network
  4. Financial Viability of Infrastructure projects
  5. Way Forward

The SilverLine Project:

  • It is an infrastructure project of kerala that will link Thiruvananthapuram in the south to Kasargode in the north.
  • The high-speed train will cover 530 km in four hours at a maximum speed of 200kmph.
  • Significance:
    • Kerala is saturated with its road network, building of a fast, environmentally-sustainable high-speed rail link must surely be seen as a sound governance response.
    • The EU study on mobility notes that HSR is the least-cost emission option among all modes of long-distance transportation.
    • Hence it is an energy-efficient and sustainable solution to address transportation shortfall.
Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 02 March 2022

What are the criticisms?

  • The project has received criticisms from both political and academic quarters.
  • Critics have put forward three principal lines of argument, namely-
    • Adverse environmental impact,
    • Financial unviability, and
    • Technical unsuitability
  • Environmental issues:
    • 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.

High Speed Rail Network:

Evolution:

  • It has been 60 years since Japan began operating its High Speed Rail system.
    • It has been 40 years since Europe (France) has began operating its high-speed rail line in 1981.
    • In 20018, China started operating the world’s largest HSR network

Why did Japan develop HSR:

  • The HSR in Japan was developed in 1964, and is known as the Shinkansen, or “bullet train.
  • 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 Kyoto Protocol was signed, Japan made more efforts to increase the speed of the various series of Shinkansen to meet the objectives of energy efficiency and CO2 reductions.
  • Trains in the current N700 series of HSRs consume half the energy consumed by the first series of trains, and run 32 per cent faster.
  • Japan today has successfully created modern and industrially-competitive economy despite its minimal natural resources.
  • This can be mainly attributed to the transformative transport arrangement like the Shinkansen.

HSR in China:

  • China has developed around 25,000 km of High Speed Rail Network.
  • A study published in Nature indicates that the new HSR routes have resulted in the reduction of 11.183 million tons of CO2 equivalent to GHG emissions or 1.33 per cent of GHG emissions in China’s transport sector.

Financial Viability of Infrastructure projects:

  • 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.
  • It is equally important to note here that the HSR programme in Japan was developed and implemented by Japan National Railways at a time when it was under immense financial stress.
  • Green technologies that are considered cheaper than fossil fuel technologies were not initially financially viable and they were unable to survive without government subsidies.

Way Forward:

  • Large capital intensive infrastructure projects has played a significant role in various countries in the transformation of the town and country, regions, and nations.
  • Globally, Green technologies that are considered cheaper than fossil fuel technologies were not initially financially viable and they were unable to survive without government subsidies.
  • Hence, this concept needs to be adopted to evaluate large projects such as SilverLine.

-Source:  The Indian Express

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October 2022
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