Assam seeks realignment of rail track through sanctuary

Trains have run over several elephants on the track between the Rani Reserve Forest and Deepor Beel.

The Assam government has proposed the realignment of a broad gauge railway line through the Deepor Beel, an ‘Important Bird Area’ designated under the Ramsar Convention of Wetlands.

Several elephants have been run over on the railway track between the elevated Rani Reserve Forest and the sanctuary. The elephants use four corridors crossing the track to often bathe and feed on the aquatic plants in the wetland.

The wetland is about 10 km southwest of Guwahati.

“We have sent a proposal to the Centre for the realignment of the railway line running through the wetland, which creates noise pollution and disturbs the migratory birds. Clearance from the National Green Tribunal [NGT] is expected once the eco-sensitive zone is declared by the authorities concerned,” State Environment and Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya said at a meeting on the beautification of the wetland on Thursday.

The meeting was held with Guwahati Development Department Minister Ashok Singhal, who sought steps to check the pollution of the wetland, under stress from a dumping site nearby and channels or streams that carry rainwater and untreated sewage from the city.

Deepor Beel is a perennial freshwater lake known for its biological and environmental importance. The wetland is also a bird sanctuary covering an area of 414 hectares, sheltering more than 200 species of birds, about 70 of them migratory birds.

The Northeast Frontier Railway had faced resistance when the project was undertaken more than two decades ago. In 2019, locals and green activists had protested the Railways’ move for doubling the track.

Railway officials said the work on doubling the track was progressing except for a 16 km stretch through Deepor Beel, as the final decision on the realignment had been pending.

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