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Blog Entry# 4669667
Posted: Jul 15 (19:40)

9 Responses
Last Response: Jul 16 (18:10)
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Jul 15 (19:40)   Maharashtra govt says no to railway gauge conversion in Melghat tiger habitat

Sachin T~   782 news posts
Entry# 4669667   News Entry# 414270         Tags   Past Edits
In a significant development, the Maharashtra government has said no to railway gauge conversion passing through the tiger habitat of Melghat in Vidarbha region.
The proposed gauge conversion of Akola-Khandwa railway line is passing through the core critical tiger habitat of Melghat Tiger Reserve.
The work was to be undertaken by the South Central Railway.
In a letter to Union Minister of Environment, Forest
and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar and Minister for Railways and Commerce Piyush Goyal, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray urged them to look for an alternate alignment and withdraw the present project.
In pursuance of the uni-gauge policy, the Centre has submitted seeking permission to start gauge conversion work in the existing meter-gauge line connecting Akola to Khandwa for a total stretch of 176 kms. The proposal includes open cutting of tunnels which involves cutting and blasting of rocks using heavy machinery and explosives. It also involves realignment away from the existing track to ease sharp curves on 23.48 kms out of a total length of 38 kms passing through the core area of tiger reserve.  
According to Thackeray, this amounts to realignment and not just gauge conversion along the existing railway track.
The Melghat Tiger Reserve is among the first nine tiger reserves of India declared in 1973-74.
The tiger reserve is spread over an area of 2,768.52 sq kms and is part of Satpura-Maikal landscape which has the distinction of being one of the global priority tiger conservation landscape.
“The Melghat Tiger Reserve is home to around 55 tigers. The decision of the Maharashtra government creates a win-win situation for both, tigers and villagers,” said Kishor Rithe, the founder of Satpuda Foundation, who is also a member of the Maharashtra State Wildlife Board.
The proposed gauge conversion will substantially increase the railway traffic in the long run leading to huge disturbance to the core areas of Melghat Tiger Reserve.
“Along with increase in the railway traffic, it would also lead to increase in speed of the trains, restrictions on future expansions and modifications and increase in pollution along the track. The core area has been made inviolate by rehabilitating 13 villages and 6 of these are within 10 kms distance of the existing railway line. Due to this wildlife has significantly increased in the area,” said Thackeray
The Wildlife Institute of India has also recommended that the best mitigation for the railway line is avoidance of the upgradation through the tiger reserve and opt for alternative alignments. 
In the letters, Thackeray also quoted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had said - "conservation of tigers is not a choice but an imperative."

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