The multi-crore rupees dedicated freight corridor (DFC) has received the environment clearance for the section running through the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, in what is possibly the shortest time in such cases ever.
The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) gave the clearance on Saturday, only a week after the project was put at the bottom of a list of 28 other projects across the country.
With this approval, railway officials will now be able to begin tying up other formalities, like the bidding process, so work on this Maharashtra leg of the project can get started soon.
Explaining the case, a senior official said, “Between 1996 and 2000, the boundaries of the national park were redrawn and the land on which the existing Panvel-Vasai line runs and that which was marked for the freight corridor became part of forest land. Therefore, the forest committee’s approval was required to change the classification from forest to non-forest use, for the running of trains. This approval for an area of 58 hectares came on December 22.”
The National Board for Wildlife (NBW) has also given its approval on the alignment of the line. The state wildlife board, chaired by the chief minister, had cleared the environment issues from its side in October.
The NBW’s approval contains a clause that will require building of underpasses for the movement of animals at four places, two of them in the Nagle block of the national park and one each in Shilotar and Sarjamori blocks. “We have made the tentative drawings for these underpasses. There will also be soft fences (chain-like barriers) that will guide the animals to the underpass,” the official said.
The railways believes that the dedicated freight corridor will be a game-changer with double-decker, heavy-haul trains able to carry about 15,000 tonnes, against the current goods train capacity of only 3,500 tonnes.
Speaking to DNA, DS Rana, chief project manager, said this was a good example of how environment issues and mega-projects like the freight corridor can be worked out. “The detailing done by the state government and the DFC was thorough as far as environment issues were concerned and that resulted in us getting favourable nods in such quick time,” Rana said.