September 30, 2021 4:31:58 am
UNION RAILWAYS Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Wednesday said that he will “take a detailed look” into the proposed project of converting into broad gauge and do electrification of railway line passing through the Gir sanctuary. The minister underlined that the Indian Railways doesn’t want to disturb any eco-sensitive zone or any environmentally-sensitive area of the country.
Responding to a question by The Indian Express as to why the proposed upgradation of the railway line passing through the core of Gir sanctuary, which is the last natural habitat in the world of Asiatic lions, is important to the Indian Railways, Vaishnaw said, “I want to fully assure you that any eco-sensitive zone, any environmentally-sensitive area…. we don’t want to disturb… So, the specific project that you said, I’ll take a detailed look at it.”
The Railways Minister was interacting with mediapersons though videoconferencing after Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved doubling of Rajkot-Kanalus railway line in Saurashtra region of Gujarat and Nimach-Ratlam line in Madhya Pradesh.
The minister said that the government has resolved to make the India Railways a net-zero emitter by 2030 by shifting to renewable sources of energy for its operations and that environmental sustainability is high in priority in this resolve.
“Railway has to be an engine of growth, it has to fit into the economy, it has to fit into the environmental sustainability vision. And that is why, as I said, the honourable Prime Minister has asked us to resolve to make the railways a net-zero emitter by 2030, which basically means that all the energy that we require will be from renewable sources of energy. And if there is any energy from non-renewable sources that it will be offset by equal amount of energy fed into the grid,” said Vaishnaw.
Incidentally, Rail Viaks Nigam Limited (RVNL), a corporation functioning under the aegis of the Ministry of Railways had applied with the forest department of Gujarat government last year, seeking wildlife and forest clearance for converting the existing Visavadar-Delvada railway line into a broad gauge line and do its electrification.
RVNL has sought 148.14 hectare of Gir sanctuary land for the proposed upgrade of the track. Accordingly, the chief wildlife warden of Gujarat had moved the proposal at the 19th meeting of State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) on September 29 last year. Minutes of the meeting suggest the SBWL, the statutory body headed by the Chief Minister, had given conditional approval to the proposal and forwarded it to the state government for suitable action.
However, environmentalists and conservationists have been opposing the proposed project, stating it will harm Gir’s wildlife, including Asiatic lions. They have raised the matter before the Gujarat High Court also. Asiatic lions have been run over by trains on this line in the past and trains operate with restricted speed while passing through the protected forest area in Gir (west) wildlife division.
Minutes of the 19th meeting were to be tabled at the 20th meeting of SBWL which was to be held on September 15 this year. However, that meeting was postponed indefinitely due to the resignation of chief minister Vijay Rupani on September 11. The chief wildlife warden of the state, who is ex officio secretary of the SBWL is yet to notify a new date of the meeting.
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