Double tracking: SWR clarifies on transfer of forestland

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Panaji: The south western railways on Sunday stated that the Union ministry of forest, environment and climate change has given clearance to diversion of only 50 hectares more of the biodiversity hotspot at Mollem for the rail project and not 120 hectares as reported in sections of the media.

“Out of the 120 hectares land approved for the double-tracking work, 70 hectares land is already with the Indian Railways since the inception of the Vasco da Gama-Londa line in 1889,” it added, pointing out, “And additional land required for the project, for which an in-principle approval for diversion was accorded, is only 50 hectares.”

The statement from the SWR PRO further claimed that the decision to increase the tunnel length by 70 per cent from the earlier proposal of 7.32 km to 12.5 km between Castlerock and Kulem was taken to reduce the number of trees to be cut from 18,000 to 15,000, or even lesser.

“The existing single-line track between Castlerock and Vasco was laid much before notification of Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park, and the land envelope in which present railway is situated is part of a thick forest,” it stated, adding that besides, out of 240 sq km area of Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary, Railways occupies a mare 0.87 sq km of land, which is about 0.3 per cent of the total area.

The Railways also said that compensatory afforestation has been planned to the extent of 10 times the number of trees to be cut, and so far it has planted 6,400 trees and has plans to increase it to one lakh trees in coming three years.

“Doubling of railway track on important routes is a national policy hence Goa cannot be left behind when transport networks across the country are being upgraded in order to improve interstate and intrastate connectivity of Goa,” the SWR statement said, maintaining that double tracking is also important from the defence point of view as Goa is strategically situated on the western coast.

“Therefore, portraying a project having national importance in poor light without verifying facts and figures would not be in any one’s interest,” it concluded