NEW DELHI: With nearly 30 key projects with an outlay of over Rs 50,000 crore still stuck for want of forest clearance, the Railway Ministry has approached the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to relax green norms for rail projects related to gauge conversion and doubling and tripling of lines to decongest busy routes.
The Railways has written to the MoEF that conversion of meter gauge to broad gauge and doubling and tripling of existing rail tracks are important to decongest traffic on busy routes. Moreover, these expansion works will be done on the railway land, it said.
“We have approached Environment Ministry seeking relaxation of norms for certain priority projects stuck for a long time pending forest clearance. We are yet to hear from them, but hopeful of a positive response,” said Member Engineering Railway Board V K Gupta.
According to the Railways, there is no need to seek forest clearance for these projects as the procedure was followed when they were constructed. For expansion works, that too on Railway land, need no new forest clearance,, it feels.
“We don’t require acquiring forest land afresh but will do the work on the existing Railway land. Why should we again seek forest clearance which delays projects for long? There is no damage that these projects would cause to environment and neither are we acquiring forest land for non-forest purpose,” said another Railway official.
Nearly 40 projects of the Railways were stuck for green clearance. However, 11 projects have been cleared in the last one year.
Among the pending projects, some are strategically important ones and have already missed deadlines.
Sivok-Rangpo rail line in West Bengal and Sikkim is stuck as 8.85 hectares of it passes through Mahananda Wild Life Sanctuary, Moynaguri-Jogighopa line requires acquisition of forest land and Angalmali-Sabarimala line is stuck as forest department did not allow the Railways to pass through tiger reserve.
“We do understand that green procedures need to be followed for new line projects, but for expansion these should be relaxed,” added official.
Rail line doubling projects stuck with MoEF include Guna-Ruthiyai in Madhya Pradesh, Macherla-Mandamari in Andhra Pradesh, Jharsuguda-Rengali in Odisha and Salka Road-Annupur in Chhattisgarh. Projects which need gauge conversion include Ratlam-Khandwa-Akola gauge conversion in Maharashtra, Gondia-Jabalpur in Chhattisgarh and Chhindwara-Nainpur-Mandla Fort.