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Thursday, January 27, 2022

Railways to cultivate flowers on land patches near tracks on Mumbai suburban network

A private company will be given contract through open tendering to do floriculture on over 150 acres of land patches at 113 different locations on the railway tracks and the company can sell the flowers in the open market, said an official.

Written by Vallabh Ozarkar | Mumbai |
Updated: January 10, 2022 8:23:20 am
The railways was assisted by Nashik-based firm Sahyadri Farms in ideation of this concept.

In an effort to curb vegetable cultivation on land patches adjacent to railway tracks using sewage water and to beautify the tracks, the Mumbai division of Central Railway has decided to cultivate flowers on 150 acres of land near its railway tracks on the Mumbai suburban network.

A private company will be given contract through open tendering to do floriculture on over 150 acres of land patches at 113 different locations on the railway tracks and the company can sell the flowers in the open market, said an official. This way, the railway will also be able to generate Non-Fare Revenue (NFR) and can have the tracks beautified.

The Central Railway has many vacant land patches along the tracks on its three lines — main, harbour and trans-harbour. In some of these places, people residing near the tracks dump garbage on the land or illegally grow vegetables, officials said.

“Garbage, dirt and sewage are always seen along the tracks and passengers have to deal with the stench while traveling. Floriculture is planned to keep the area around the tracks clean, tidy and fragrant,” said an official.

The railways was assisted by Nashik-based firm Sahyadri Farms in ideation of this concept. Sahyadri Farm is a Farmer Producers Company (FPC) in Nashik started 10 years ago and has become one of the 6th largest exporter of grapes in the country.

In 1970, under the Grow More Food (GMF) scheme, railways had allowed its employees to farm these lands on lease to avoid getting these land patches encroached. This was later stopped after complaints were received from activists that the cultivation was being done using sewage water. The activists had also filed a petition in the Bombay High Court and the court had ordered in 2019 to ensure that sewage or chemical water is not used in farming of consumable items.

The railways then stopped giving license for the cultivation. However, illegal cultivation is taking place on several patches along the tracks and its sale in the market is still rampant, an official said. The vegetables grown using sewage water are sold at a higher rate in Mumbai as well as in the suburbs. As these vegetables are very harmful to health, the Railway Board has decided to cultivate flowers instead of growing vegetables on railway land.

The official said an Expression of Interest for ‘Floriculture’ at various stations and locations in railway premises of Mumbai Division of Central Railway has been issued for a period of five years.

Among the areas identified are 12 acres in Thakurli, two acres in Ghatkopar-Kurla, four in Pavne in Parsik tunnel area, two-and-a-half acres at Kurla car shed and Dadar and one-and-a-half acres at Lokmanya Tilak Terminus station.

Though the railways claims that it doesn’t allow cultivation on the tracks, it is still happening.

“There are several locations in Navi Mumbai where the cultivation is going on beside the railway tracks and the produce is directly sold in vegetable markets. The problem is not of cultivation but sewage and chemical water coming from industrial areas being used by the cultivators. Such vegetables can create serious health issues. The practice must stop and it would be appropriate to cultivate non-consumable items only,” said Govind Salunke, a Navi Mumbai-based activist and commuter.

“The tracks are very dirty on several patches. There is a need for a permanent solution to the issue and we think the floriculture cultivation is a great option and it will also get rid of the garbage dumping on the tracks,” said Rajesh Ghanghav of Karjat Kasara Passenger Association.

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