Akola – Khandwa Gauge conversion controversy.

This complete story picked from twitter account.

courtesy @Krunal_Goda

Let’s Understand Issue in detail:

Salient features of Akola-Khandwa Gauge conversion line.

Existing Railway line is of Meter Gauge laid in 1959-60.

• Meter Gauge train operation was stoppd from 1-1-17 in Akola-Khandwa section for Gauge Conversion work.

• Thus, Railway line is very old and Railway track, Operation of trains & Wild animals were co-existing without any problem upto Dec’16.

• Akola-Khandwa portion is part of 473 Km long Gauge Conversion project from Akola to Ratlam.

• 299 Km length of the project falls in Madhya Pradesh, out of which, 198 Km length has already been converted into Broad Gauge and commissioned for train services. The work of Gauge Conversion in balance 101 Km length is in progress.

• 174 Km length of the project from Akola to Khandwa falls in Maharashtra State.

• Out of 174 Km, the Gauge conversion work on 43 Km length of project from Akola to Akot has already been completed and expected to be commissioned by Aug’2020.

• The Gauge Conversion work in 53 Km length from Amlakhurd-Khandwa is also in progress.

• The Work of Gauge Conversion in sandwiched portion of 78 Km length from Akot to Amlakhurd is pending on account of pending Wildlife clearance.

• Conversion of Meter Gauge to Broad Gauge is extremely essential to provide connectivity b/w Southern & Western India.

• 17 Km length of existing Meter Gauge section b/w Adgaon Buzurg & Tukaithad Railway stations passes through Amba Barwa / Wan Reserve Forest.

This was declared as “Sanctuary” in 1998 and had become part of Melghat Tiger Reserve.

• Out of total 78 Km length of stretch from Akot to Amlakhurd, 39 Km passes through Wan Reserve forest, Melghat Tiger Reserve and its buffer zone.

• Is it true that@RailMinIndia wanted to ease curvature of existing alignment, but, Forest Deptt. of Maharashtra rejected the proposal?

• May be, hence study was done for alternate alignment bypassing Tiger Sanctuary by taking help of Regional Remote Sensing Center Nagpur

As per study:

– Due to diversion, 30Km extra length was required to b constructed

– Acquisition of 152 Hec. Virgin forest land + 270 Hec. Revenue land was involved

– Around 0.5 Hec. built-up area was also required to be acquired

  • Tunnel of 7 Km length also required

Fresh land acquisitn of Forest, Revenue land, construction of tunnel wild take longtime & huge cost, hence experts decided to follow existing alignment within existing Railway land boundary w/o acquisition of land specially in Reserved Forest area & Melghat Tiger Reserve

May be, hence Railway is not acquiring any land in Reserved Forest area & Melghat Tiger Reserve.

• In 2014 itself, Railway informed both Govt. of Maharashtra and Forest Deptt that, Railway will bear the cost of any Mitigation measures required by the Forest Deptt.

Like avoiding the blasting, quarrying and mining in forest areas, providing underpass and overpass etc. on identified locations for animal movement.

Railway also agreed that, the speed of Broad Gauge train shall be kept same as of Meter Gauge train i.e. 60 Kmph.

So, To summarise as it looks:

Railway would be working within Railway alignment in the Reserved Forest area & Melghat Tiger Reserve without acquisition of any extra land.

Had the alignment be modified then, huge Virgin forest & Revenue land would need to be acquired, which is quite daunting task and very costly affair as well and will delay the project by around 6 to 7 years.

Up to Dec’2016, Wildlife animals were co-existing with Meter Gauge train operation & no untoward incident ever reported.

Since, Railway agreed for providing mitigation measures, appropriate work would be done to assure free movement of animals across track.

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