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Blog Entry# 4666431
Posted: Jul 11 (11:03)

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Rail News
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Jul 11 (11:03)   Fresh move to push railway line through Melghat reserve

Chetan~   772 news posts
Entry# 4666431   News Entry# 413817         Tags   Past Edits
Nagpur: In a fresh move, the BJP government at the Centre wants the Maharashtra government to reconsider the forest land diversion proposal for upgradation of railway line passing through Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR).
The Melghat railway line issue was one among other pending infrastructure projects discussed on July 7 during the Group of Infrastructure meeting between highways minister Nitin Gadkari, railway minister Piyush Goyal and environment minister Prakash Javadekar, and officials of department concerned.
In the meeting, railway officials submitted that the standing committee of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) on February 25,
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2019, returned the proposal to Maharashtra government for submissions and comments, which are awaited. To this, the ministers expressed displeasure against state for non-submission of comments.
“We have apprised the state government about the Group of Infrastructure meeting, and displeasure expressed by the ministers,” said APCCF & nodal officer Sanjeev Gaur.
Of the 176km railway line — Akola-Akot (44km), Akot-Amlakhurd (78km), and Amlakhurd-Khandwa (54km) — 35km falls inside tiger reserve, of which 18km passes through the core area. The South Central Railway (SCR) requires forest diversion of 161 hectare area. The railway ministry has sanctioned Rs1,421.25 crore for the project.
On February 25, NBWL had rejected the proposal and returned it to the state government. The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in their comments had recommended that only feasible mitigation is ‘avoidance’ of gauge conversion and alternate routes or alignments bypassing the tiger reserve should be taken up.
State wildlife board member Kishor Rithe said, “I don’t think chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, who was so sensitive about Aarey in Mumbai and did not allow trees to be cut, will ever allow such massive destruction through core area of Melghat, where rich biodiversity will be destroyed and thousands of trees will be felled.”
Environment lawyer Manish Jeswani, who had moved Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee (CEC) on the issue, said, “No mitigation steps will match the ecological damage. NTCA and WII have clearly said ‘alternate route’ is best mitigation. Hence, there is no question of reconsideration. The proposal was sent back to the state in February last when BJP-Sena government was in power and it too had opposed gauge conversion through Melghat.”
In March, Shiv Sena MP from Buldhana Prataprao Jadhav opposed railway line through Melghat and said the gauge conversion will, in the long run, increase train traffic resulting in huge disturbance to presence of tigers and other wildlife in the area. Alternate route will be a win-win situation for all.
“The Wan sanctuary of tiger reserve has been made inviolate by rehabilitating 13 villages from core area by spending over Rs402 crore. The gauge conversion will reverse the benefits accrued from rehabilitation and habitat development,” said Jadhav.
* In June 2018, Railway Board gives go ahead to line through MTR
* Decision challenged before CEC in August 2018
* CEC issues notices and hears all parties on January 16, 2019
* State opposes project through tiger reserve
* NTCA and WII too say ‘avoidance’ of line through MTR is best mitigation
* On January 31, CEC asks for alternative alignment and puts ball in NBWL court
* NBWL rejects railway proposal on Feb 25 and returns proposal to state

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