Local bodies are oppossing collecting red soil, citing environmental norms.

The work on doubling of rail lines running south of Ernakulam through Kottayam and Alappuzha is off the track because of bureaucratic delays and problems associated with transporting red earth to construction sites.

The railways is not in a position to fix a deadline for the long-pending line-doubling works. The doubling is crucial to ensure faster movement of trains through both the routes.

The work has come to a standstill, mainly on the 10-km-long Chengannur-Thiruvalla stretch. Sources in the railway’s construction wing said residents in some localities and a few government bodies are objecting to sourcing red earth and construction materials, citing environment norms. “Many local panchayats are issuing stop memos against collecting the earth. This has in turn steeply increased its price and contractors are demanding higher amounts. We have approached the revenue and environment departments and they have promised to solve the issue.”

The problems arose after the authorities cited a court judgment and insisted that permits for quarrying earth will be issued only after environment impact assessment. A total of 20 lakh cubic metres of red earth is required. The cost per tipper lorry load has more than doubled to over Rs 3,000. A few contractors are unduly inflating the cost by citing different excuses, the sources said.

As for land acquisition, most issues have been settled but for isolated court cases. The railways generally takes around two and a half years to double the line, once land is handed over. While constructing tunnels is a tough job in Kottayam, a few major bridges have to be built in Alappuzha.

Though work is in progress to double the Mulanthuruthy–Piravom route, there are complaints that it is not fast enough. Here, earth is sourced directly from railway properties.

Alappuzha route

In the Alappuzha route, similar problems have delayed the doubling work, especially on the Ambalapuzha-Haripad sector.

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