Monday, August 15, 2022

Women organisations oppose proposed alternative rail route in Dima Hasao

Several women organisations in Assam’s Dima Hasao district have expressed their strong opposition to proposed alternative rail route from Lanka-Silchar via Chandranathpur, claiming that it will lead to “another mass destruction” of the local environment.
They claimed that the massive damage caused to the Lumding-Silchar broad gauge section by rains and landslides last month has exposed the “unscientific” project executed by the railways previously, and the alternative route will also face similar risks.
The existing section was badly damaged by heavy torrential rains and massive landslides in mid-May this year with breaches in more than 60 locations, resulting in disruption of rail communication to Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur and southern Assam. The route is yet to be fully restored.
In a letter to Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on Friday, the organisations objected to the government decision to introduce alternative rail-route from Lanka (Hojai district) to Silchar (Cachar) via Chandranathpur (also in Cachar).
They claimed that an amount of Rs 43.23 crore has been sanctioned for final location survey.
They demanded revocation of the decision with immediate effect as it was taken “arbitrarily and without taking into account the stakeholders and local government of our district”.
The entire district is facing destruction of all kinds due to “complete technical fault committed by the Railway Authority while the existing Lumding-Silchar broad gauge conversion project was carried out”, the letter, signed by Dimasa Mothers’ Association, Dibarai Mahila Samiti, Zeme Mothers’ Association, Dimasa Mahila Samiti and Gorkha Naan Sangharsh Sangh, asserted.
They alleged that the railways had failed to apply scientific knowledge in the existing Lumding-Silchar section, which had destroyed and fragmented the eco-system of the hill district.
They claimed that the Commissioner of Railway Safety, had suggested to the Railways to engage experts in the field of Geo-technology to take preventive measures in 2015 itself. But instead of rectifying the defects, the route was opened for passenger train movement the same year.
A PIL was recently filed in the Gauhati High Court regarding the ‘failure’ to implement suggestions given by the Commissioner and the authorities have been given four weeks time by the court to file their response.
They claimed that the authorities had ignored an official report of 2009 that had pointed to difficulties and future risks while undertaking the gauge conversion work of the existing section.
If the proposed alternative route is constructed, it will once again affect the natural surroundings of the flora and fauna of the district, which had already been disturbed during the gauge conversion project, the letter said.
Part of the land that will be covered in the proposed alternative route is included within the limits of a proposed new national wildlife sanctuary in the district, and it will also adversely impact migratory birds that visit the district during the winters and are a major tourist draw.
The organisations said that the proposed alternative route bypasses most of the main towns and locations of the district while the existing route served more than half of the district’s total population.
While asserting that the alternative route was ‘not acceptable and non-negotiable’ for the people, the organisations have demanded that the ‘technical faults’ in the existing track should be properly reassessed and re-build it ‘scientifically’.


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