GUWAHATI, July 31 - The Indian Railways has been facing resistance from the local people in carrying out the survey for the diverted alignment of the rail track on the Deepor Beel stretch of the Goalpara-Kamakhya rail track. This has been revealed by the Railways in its latest affidavit before the Kolkata-based Eastern Zone Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
The Railways proposed a joint survey for the purpose together with the State�s forest department, Public Works Department (PWD), Assam Power Distribution Company Ltd (APDCL) and the Circle Officer of Azara circle. But the team faced resistance from the local people.
The diversion of the rail track on this stretch has become necessary to avoid train accidents involving elephants. The issue has come up in the form of a case in the Kolkata-based Eastern Zone Bench of the NGT, following a petition filed by RTI-cum-environment activist Rohit Choudhury (Original Application No 472 of 2018, Rohit Choudhury versus Union of India and Others). The EZ Bench of the NGT issued some directions to the Railways and other respondents in the case on April 29 this year.
After two rounds of high-level meeting, a meeting was held with all the officers concerned at the camp office of Deepor Beel Wildlife Sanctuary. It was decided that the diverted alignment of the rail track will start from Chainage 165844 metre and will pass towards the hills (forest area) and shall connect at Chainage 167740 metre on the existing track. The length of the proposed diverted alignment is 1km and 896 metres. The proposed tunnel will pass through the revenue land (around 45,000 square metres) at Azara end followed by reserved forest land (around 37,000 square metres) and again through revenue land (around 10,000 square metres) to finally meet the existing rail track.
But when the meeting was going on, a group of people led by a wildlife enthusiast, appeared suddenly and started questioning them about the plan of the Railways as well as of the State government on the other three effective elephant corridors falling between Azara Station and Deepor Beel. The group claimed that construction of the tunnels would not help in solving the problems concerning the safe passage of the elephants. Rather, the tunnels would block one passage between the two hills in the reserved forest and could cause the elephants to pass through the village.
The local people have also resisted the location of the alignment, claiming that plots of revenue land are located in the approaches to the forest land. When a team of officials of the forest and revenue departments and the Railways undertook a joint survey on June 28, 2019 for earmarking the forest boundary, the team was chased away by a group of 15 to 20 women, who opposed the proposed alignment, complaining they would be facing displacement.
Due to such resistance, further attempts at carrying out the joint survey for the alignment could not be made. The matter has been brought to the notice of the DC, Kamrup Metro and he has been requested to issue directives to the committee to carry out a further survey of the alignment, said the Railways in its affidavit before the NGT Bench.