NEW DELHI: With Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda rooting to expedite all important rail projects stuck for years, the ministry has prepared a list of 40 key projects which faced forest clearance bottleneck from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
The highest number of eight projects from the northeast region and seven from northern railways are awaiting green clearance. These projects are spread across 71 divisions in 16 zones of the Railways.
A large number of rail projects are pending due to lack of green clearance and some of them are crucial for the transportation of coal from mining sites in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and connectivity in hilly regions of northeast. According to the Railway Ministry, they have been held up in the MoEF for over eight to 10 years. About 11 national projects and 14 strategic projects in bordering states of Jammu and Kashmir, northeast, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan and Punjab have been stuck for want of forest and wildlife clearance from the MoEF and some are stuck due to monetary crunch.
The 51.83-km-long Bhairabi-Sairang rail project in Mizoram, which was sanctioned in 2008-09 at a cost of `2,393.48 crore, awaits forest clearance. Similar is the status of Sivok-Rangpo rail line in Sikkim, which was also sanctioned in 2008-09 at a cost of `3375.42 crore and is pending for want of green clearances.
These projects are key for transferring security forces and arms and ammunitions to the places bordering China and Pakistan in case of any emergency.
Another important coal evacuation project, Tori-Shivpur -Kathautia (53 kms) railway line in North Karanpura in Jharkhand, is also delayed. The Ministry of Coal has been pushing the Railways and MoEF to get the project completed by 2016 in order to meet the country’s growing power demand.
This project is also with the Cabinet Secretariat’s Project Monitoring Group (PMG).
“We are collating the list and will submit the same to the PMG to expedite the clearances. Some of these are national projects, which are of importance to provide rail connectivity in the northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir,” said sources in the Railways. The Ministry of Railways is also preparing a policy note seeking relaxation of green norms to expedite construction of national and strategic rail projects. This will be sent to the Cabinet Secretariat for a discussion.