Assam wetland neighbours oppose railway track realignment

Project will be catastrophic for ecology of Rani-Garbhanga Reserve Forest besides uprooting hundreds of indigenous people, they say

Updated - September 15, 2021 04:41 pm IST

Published - September 15, 2021 04:40 pm IST - GUWAHATI

A view of the Deepor Beel bird sanctuary in the outskirts of Guwahati city. File

A view of the Deepor Beel bird sanctuary in the outskirts of Guwahati city. File

Neighbours of Deepar Beel, a Ramsar Site wetland and Important Bird Area under stress, have opposed the proposed realignment of a railway track skirting its southern edge.

The project would be catastrophic for the ecology of the Rani-Garbhanga Reserve Forest, affect a prime elephant corridor and uproot the indigenous people, they say.

On September 13, a memorandum containing 600 signatures of villagers around Deepar Beel was submitted to W. Longvah, Inspector-General of Forest, at the integrated regional office of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in Guwahati.

The villagers listed the reasons for opposing the realignment of the railway track that has in three decades killed 14 elephants.

Senior environment scientist Hemanta Hazarika and green activist Arghadeep Baruah, who accompanied the representatives of the villagers, said the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had proposed realigning the track to the north of the wetland through human habitations.

The realignment further south to accommodate another track — both to be electrified — would be much closer to the Rani-Garbhanga Reserve Forest and uproot the indigenous people of Mikirpara Chakardeo who have been coexisting with nature for ages.

 

A proposed tunnel in the hilly stretch of the Rani Garbhanga Reserve Forest between two railway barriers would also spell doom for the ecology of the area “in the name of preventive measures”, the memorandum said.

The track realignment will not only go against the views of the NGT but would also undermine the recommendations of the Wildlife Institute of India, the memorandum said.

Threat to aquatic life and waterfowls.

The issue of the garbage dumping ground on the edge of Deepar Beel was also taken up with Mr. Longvah. Seepages from the dump and sewers from Guwahati have made the Deepar Beel toxic, threatening aquatic life and waterfowls.

The wetland expands up to 30 sq. km. in summer and reduces to about 10 sq. km. in winter. A 4.1-sq. km. area within it is the Deepar Beel Wildlife Sanctuary.

On August 25, the Environment Ministry had notified an area “to an extent varying from 294 metres to 16.32 km” as the eco-sensitive zone around Deepar Beel. The notified area is 148.9767 sq. km.

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