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Don’t lay second track through Deepor Beel, NGT tells NFR

 GUWAHATI, Oct 10 - The Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has asked the Northeast Frontier Railway authorities not to undertake any work in connection with the laying of the second railway track through the Deepor Beel.

The NGT said in its October 8, 2018 order, which was uploaded today on its website, “if they (NF Railway) had already commenced with it which would include any other activity relating to laying of the second railway track,” the Tribunal reiterated the January 18, 2018 direction that no further work shall be undertaken in the area in question, that is Deepor Beel.

The NGT order was issued in Original Application No. 472/2018 (EZ) (Earlier Original Application No. 19/2014/EZ) Rohit Choudhury versus Union of India and others in the matter of Deepor Beel.

It needs mention here that as per the January 18, 2018 order of the NGT in this case, the State government constituted a committee to examine the whole gamut of issues concerning the environment of the Deepor Beel and the railway track running through it. The committee, among others, engaged the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to study the issue of railway lines in elephant habitats of Deepor Beel.

The WII, in its August 28, 2018 report, titled ‘Railway lines in elephant habitats: With specific reference to Deepor Beel, Assam’, suggested, among others, speed restriction, regular patrolling along the railway track, construction of a tunnel between gates No. 273 and 274. It said that the ongoing patrolling practice of the Assam forest department along the Deepor Beel stretch of the railway track should be continued on a regular basis.

“Designated patrolling teams need to actively patrol along this track specifically during night time and upon detection of elephant movement near the track a proper mechanism should be put in place to pass on the information to the locomotive driver,” it said.

It further said the long-term solution to prevent collision with wild elephant lies in construction of a tunnel in the hill tract between railway gates numbered 273 and 274. “The railway track after bridge No. 738 passes through a bend along the edge of a hill. This stretch of railway track owing to its terrain is most prone to elephant hit. In order to avoid collision with wild elephants, possibility of excavating a tunnel through the hill between gates No. 273 and 274 should be explored. A track passing through the tunnel will be the long-term solution to this (running over elephants) problem,” said the WII.

This report was given to the NF Railway authorities along with a working manual, ‘Eco-Friendly Measures to Mitigate Impacts of Linear Infrastructure on Wildlife’, published by the WII. The Railways was requested to take the mitigation measures as suggested in the WII report.

The State government said in its affidavit before the NGT in this case, on October 7, 2018 that it was yet to get the action plan supposed to be prepared by the railway authority in this connection.

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