Kashmir Rail To Chug Over Degraded Enviro27 February 2011
Srinagar: The ambitious 345-km-long Baramulla-Jammu railway project, started without a detailed geological survey, has brought mass degradation to the environment of the state and has posed serious threat to springs and woods. Moving at a slow pace, the constructing agencies quite often face seepage, swelling and collapse of tunnels at different places, particularly in Pir Panchal range, sources told Rising Kashmir. According to experts, the project is expected to further deteriorate the environment as the deadline has been extended by another six years in 2017, a fact even admitted by former Union Minister of State for Railways R Velue during his interaction with the Editors’ Guild at Srinagar in 2007. “The project has been causing environmental degradation in the state but measures are being initiated to check it,” Velue had told reporters here. However, the situation has only moved from bad to worse. Informed sources said nine years back, the Northern Railways launched the project without conducting a detailed geological survey, which not only resulted in frequent delays and cost escalation but also caused degradation to the environment. A natural water spring at Lower Munda has almost dried up in the construction of this project. “Water resources have their origin in catchment areas at higher altitudes. Whenever the bed of such areas gets exposed due to rock cutting, water seeps out and same is the case with the railway tunnel being constructed at Qazigund. The project is beneficial but at the same time it has an adverse impact on the environment,” said an engineer of Geology and Mining Department, wishing anonymity. He said it is obvious that the digging of railway tunnel would affect water resources of the adjoining areas for more than six years till the tunnel construction is completed, but to preserve such loss of water and prevent drying up of agricultural land, the railway authority needs to come up with a water treatment plant. “Considering the pace of work on Katra-Qazigund Railway, the track is unlikely to come up by 2017,” the engineer said. Meanwhile, sources said the constructing agencies are even lacking experienced engineering staff and modern machines as well. As the Northern Railways lacks the geological survey cadre, it requested the GSI to conduct a workshop for its engineers about the geological structure and to familiarize them with the topography of the Himalayan range in 2007. They said the swelling because of earth pressure, seepage and water-logging in tunnels is natural phenomenon but GSI would have provided the expertise to overcome it.