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Uddhav seeks alternative routes for Melghat rail line conversion

Uddhav Thackeray

Uddhav Thackeray  

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has sought alternative routes for the proposed broad gauge conversion of a railway line passing through the Melghat Tiger Reserve in Amravati district.

Mr. Thackeray has written to Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar and Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal requesting an alternative alignment for the Akola-Khandwa line, considering the long-term irreversible impact the work will have on endangered species like tigers. Mr. Thackeray also referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘conservation of tigers is not a choice but an imperative’ remark in his letter.

Of the 176-km-long Akola-Khandwa line, 38 km passes through the core area of the tiger reserve, which is spread over 2,768.52 sq km. Melghat, part of the Satpura-Maikal landscape, is among nine places in the country designated as tiger reserves in 1973-74.

Mr. Thackeray said the proposal submitted by the Ministry of Railways involves cutting and blasting of rocks using heavy machinery and explosives. He said, “It also involves realignment away from the existing track to ease sharp curves on 23.48 km of the 38-km line passing through the core area of the tiger reserve. This amounts to realignment and not just gauge conversion along the track.”

‘Rise in rail traffic’

The Chief Minister said converting the Akola-Khandwa line from metre to broad gauge will lead to a rise in railway traffic in the long run and cause disturbance to the core areas of the tiger reserve. “It would lead to an increase in the speed of trains, restrictions on future expansions and modifications, and rise in pollution along the track,” he said. The core area has been protected by rehabilitating 13 villages, and six of them are located within 10 km of the railway line. “Due to this, wildlife has significantly increased in the area. This project will reverse the benefits accrued from rehabilitation and habitat development,” he said.

Mitigation strategies

In his letter, Mr. Thackeray pointed out that in January 2019, the Wildlife Institute of India had recommended “avoidance of upgradation through the tiger reserve and opting for alternative alignments” as the best ways to reduce the risk posed by the railway line.

The realignment will not only ensure the much required space for wildlife but also bring railway connectivity and great economic development to unconnected villages located in Jalgaon-Jamod and Sangrampur talukas, the Chief Minister said.

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Printable version | Aug 9, 2020 8:04:15 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/uddhav-seeks-alternative-routes-for-melghat-rail-line-conversion/article32094818.ece

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