Feb 27, 2015
LUCKNOW: With railway minister Suresh Prabhu saying “concerns related to wildlife will be addressed”, it is to be seen what will happen to the metre gauge line that runs through the Dudhwa National Park. The metre gauge line is a part of the Mailani-Bahraich rail track. The line has six pairs of trains running on it, two pairs being express trains. The track was recommended for a gauge conversion survey in 2013. It passes through the Pilibhit forest division, Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, North Kheri forest division, South Kheri forest division and Katarniaghat wildlife forest division. It is a concern for the forest department as dozens of animals have been run over by trains on the route. At least 60 km of the Mailani-Bahraich railway track passes through dense patches of Dudhwa National Park. At least 70 animals have been run over by trains on the track between 1998 and 2010, including tigers. Forest officials said smaller animals are killed almost every day. The forest department has written several letters to railways, demanding speed restrictions on the route. At times, a proposal to dismantle the track has also come up in official discussions. As of now, the track is not a profitable operation for railways because goods trains do not run on it. The argument by railways in favour of the gauge conversion is that it will bring more trains and more revenue. If converted, the number of trains passing through the wildlife area would increase in the years to come. However, with the railway minister showing concern for wildlife, the state forest department’s demand for track dismantling could be taken up seriously by railways. A letter by then-chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav to railway minister Lalu Prasad on May 22, 2006, highlighted that only 33 km of the railway line through Dudhwa posed threat to wildlife.
He had asked for speed restrictions on only the track between Palia Kalan and Bilrayen, 15 km/hr for the first 5 km and 30 km/hr for the remaining 28 km. Railways is not ready to dismantle the track, considering the transportation needs of people in the region. “Why should we dismantle the track? There is immense pressure on us from all quarters to restore rail traffic on the same track that passes through the forest area as quickly as possible after floods disrupt services every monsoon,” said sources in railways. The controversy over the track in Dudhwa reserve is an old issue. A letter dated June 5, 2006, by A Raja, minister for environment and forests, to railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, said the ministry had been receiving reports time and again about wild animals getting killed on the railway track passing through Dudhwa. The letter stated that the issue had been taken up with railway authorities at state and Central level for ensuring necessary safeguards in the interest of wild animals but redressal was awaited. The railways, on the other hand, said the track was important for movement of security forces, since Dudhwa almost shares its border with Nepal. Besides, since trains are the least polluting mode of transport, there would never be an ecological damage to the reserve. “Nonetheless, if the forest department wants us to shut down the track, the state government has to be categorical about it. Secondly, the railways has to be given the land at an alternative site to lay the new track,” said railway sources. As the decision to dismantle the track and acquire land to give to the railways would involve political considerations, the state government might take time to decide.
As posted in Timesofindia.indiatimes.com