Railway Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) has proposed a doubling of the existing rail line from Hospet -Tinaighat – Vasco Port (345km). There are two phases for this project. Phase 1 – Doubling of line between Hospet and Tinaighat and Phase 2 – Doubling of line between Tinaighat and Vasco, Castlerock – Kulem doubling is part of the Phase-2 Project.
RVNL considered several possible alignments for the second line in the Castlerock – Kulem Section, but finally settled on an alignment parallel to the existing railway track.
The second phase of the line passes through forest areas in the States of Karnataka and Goa, including two protected areas, Anshi-Dandeli Tiger Reserve (ADTR-, Karnataka) and Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary (BMWLS-Goa).
The project is distinctive to the extent that there are 15 tunnels proposed (covering a length of 3.407 kms) in a total project alignment of 27.75 kms.
The project was necessitated because:
*The existing single line capacity is fully saturated. Goa and Hospet in Karnataka being important tourist destination, there is a huge demand for introduction of new trains. Also Goa being a tourist destination, there is a demand for introducing more and more passenger trains from various parts of the country. Due to the existing single line capacity constraints, it had not been possible to introduce new trains.
*Track doubling would enhance the line capacity and Indian Railways will thus be able to introduce more passenger trains. With the introduction of more trains, it will bring in more and more tourists and thus helps in increasing the employment, business potential and socio-economic development of Goa.
*Railway doubling, apart from tourism also helps in movement of bulk commodities by rail, which is the most energy efficient mode of transport, thereby saving precious foreign exchange due to reduced fuel consumption
Air and noise pollution – With the existing diesel engines, railway line doubling would increase the amount of pollutants. Water pollution is a major concern during the construction as well as during operation phase.
*Faecal matter and associated bacteria (E. coli) from the trains are going to contaminate water bodies, which has serious health impacts in the downstream. But now coaches are being provided with bio-toilets, therefore contamination would be less.
Solid waste generation and management –Unless strict and stringent measures to curb solid waste dumping, railway line doubling adds more trouble to existing management issues with solid waste. Electrification of the double line can completely reduce the air and noise pollution. However solid waste will be a problem which can be mitigated with proper collection, segregation and treatment.
Additional land has been acquired for new alignment. This would bring down cutting of many trees as the alignment is exactly parallel to the present alignment
Animal corridors – Near / closer to Mahaveer Jain National Park and Anshi-Dandeli Tiger Reserve Park have been suggested
Environmental Impacts and remedial measures
A. Impacts due to Project Location
1.Loss of Trees/ Forest. – YES
2.Change of Land use – more than 28 ha additional land and trees will go
3.Displacement of people – NIL
B. Impacts due to Project Construction
1.Soil Erosion & Pollution at Construction Sites. – can be managed
2.Soil Disposal Problem – as tunneling / embankment construction are present in this site which will reduce the waste soil.
3.Problems Due to Geological Faults – NO
C. Impacts due to Project Operation
1.Oil Pollution. – can be reduced by electrification of the lines
2.Accidental Hazards – can be reduced with better maintenance
3.Noise. – can be reduced by electrification
General Positive Impacts ;
2.Benefits to Economy.
3.Less Fuel consumption
4.Less Air Pollution
5.Quick Service & Safety.
6.On the positive side, the construction of railway line will provide much needed connectivity to coastal region with the interior regions of Karnataka which will offer cheap mode of transportation bring economic development & new employment opportunities to the whole of Uttar Kannada, Belagavi, Bagalkot, Hubli-Dharwad, Bellary and other northern districts of Goa and Karnataka
7.The railway line passes into the boundary of the Mahaveer Jain National Park –proper animal corridors needs to be developed.
8.It was observed that majority of the people are in the favour of construction of doubling of the railway line including villagers and they are aware of this project.
9.Movement of mining ores from Bellary area towards the ports (which has caused transport problems such as increase in road traffic, increase in road accidents, increased fuel consumption & more air pollution) will become smoother and lesser after doubling the railway line.
Additional Mitigation Measures for Impact on Environment
1.Proposed reforestation should be double the amount of Forest Area Lost.
2.To minimize noise pollution, trees along the tracks must be planted so as to act as sound barriers.
3.Excavated materials can be used for embankment, ballast and in making gabian structures.
4.Trench or dykes can be made on slopes to reduce muck getting into streams and valleys.
5.Filling old manganese mines in down ghats can be an option to use muck generated during the construction phase.
6.Recommended to monitor the Water Quality, Public Health, Soil conservation and reforestation during construction and operational phases.
7.Project construction period should be reduced so that impact is reduced.
The impacts of the construction and operation of a second railway track on biodiversity would include (a) cutting of trees and increasing the gap in the forest with consequences for forest dynamics, (b) the pollution of streams and rivers with impacts on aquatic life, (c) hindrance for wildlife crossing and increased risk of direct collisions of wildlife with trains.
Forest Conservation :
*All efforts should be made to minimize the removal of trees along the proposed line.
*Integrity of the forest area should be maintained. While removing trees, care should be taken not create artificial gaps by cutting branches unnecessarily.
*Care should also be taken while removing endemic, medicinal and utilitarian trees. In the case of restricted endemics or rare species, the Railways should identify pole-size stems that are to be cut with the assistance of local botanists and arrange to uproot them for replanting in the forest nearby.
*Compensatory afforestation plan should be in place. There should be scope for planting in areas such as river banks, stations etc. At the same time, the major aim of compensatory afforestation should be to consolidate the habitat of the two protected areas involved, namely, Bhagawan Mahavir WLS and Anshi-Dandeli Tiger Reserve.
*Random afforestation efforts would not compensate for the loss of tree cover through doubling of the railway track.
*Maximum care should be taken to reduce the pressure on the forests while execution of the project such as providing LPG facility to labour camps to avoid extraction of firewood by the labour force.
*For conserving the associated taxa such as butterflies, birds and mammals, railways in consultation with forest department should establish “Biodiversity parks”.
Proving passages for animals and reducing collision risks
One of the problems with increased train traffic in a track running through a forested area with wildlife is the increased risk of collisions with animals. There have been instances of a large mammal such as the Indian gaur, being involved in such accidents as well as a host of other animals though there are no systematic records available.
*Railways should provide whistle boards in forested areas where animals cross the railway track.
*Should construct under passes for the movement of animals upon the advice of forest department. They should also maintain existing culverts, underpasses and other drainage structures along the railway line or improve upon the existing structures if required.
*Such culverts and smaller drainage structures can facilitate the movement of a variety of smaller animals including anurans, reptiles, and small mammals.
*Railways should construct barricades in designated localities to prevent the animals crossing tracks at locations where such crossings are risky for the animals.
There are two important issues regarding air quality − dust generation and vehicular emissions. Dust generation could be through construction activities, transport, storage, blasting and rail bed formation. Dust and other pollutants can settle on the surrounding vegetation and impair photosynthesis, resulting in lower survival of trees and other plants.
Mitigation measures :
*Transport of the materials, especially sand, cement and other materials that can inject particulate matter into the atmosphere, should be done through covered vehicles. Loading and unloading of construction materials should be done preferably in covered areas or in areas where water fogging can be used to arrest dust emission into the atmosphere.
*Approach roads at the construction site should be paved. Water should be sprayed on earthworks and related works so that the dust is arrested.
*Vehicles and machinery should be regularly maintained to cut down emissions. Diesel generating (DG) sets should be filed with adequate stack height as per prescribed standards.
*The use of ultra low Sulphur diesel by locomotives is strongly recommended. At the same time electrification would be a better option to practically avoid air pollution.
*Speed limit with the stretch of road passing through the sanctuary should be restricted to 40km/hr.
Excessive noise from the blasting and use of construction machinery would disturb the wildlife, especially some of the larger species such as gaur that are relatively shy and sensitive to disturbance. The Railways should ensure that noise levels are minimized and localized to the extent possible during the construction phase.
Source : Heraldo