SILCHAR: The Northeast Frontier Railway‘s plan to construct a new rail line between Cachar district’s Silchar and Hojai district’s Lanka via Chandranathpur has evoked strong opposition from various organisations and political parties in Dima Hasao district.
The railway department had last month sanctioned the final location survey of the Silchar-Lanka railway route (208km) via Chandranathpur for Rs. 43.23 crore. The decision to set up the alternative rail line was taken considering frequent landslides in the Lumding-Silchar hill section. Rail connectivity via Dima Hasao has been snapped since May after rainfall-triggered landslides washed away rail tracks and severely damaged rail lines in many areas of the hill district. The service is likely to be restored by July 16.
On Friday, the Dimasa Students’ Union submitted a memorandum to central railway minister Ashwani Vaishnav (via Dima Hasao deputy commissioner Nazreen Ahmed) expressing its disapproval over the railway department’s decision to construct the Silchar-Lanka alternate rail route. Union general secretary Pramith Sengyung told journalists that the alternate rail route project’s materialisation would destroy a large number of trees and hills and the district, which had suffered massive damage because of the cutting of trees in 2015 when the broad-gauge rail line was set up, cannot afford to experience more devastation. The existing Lumding-Silchar rail route should be repaired properly, he said.
Talking to EastMojo on Saturday, the general secretary of Dimasa Mothers’ Association Maiphal Kemprai said the rail department’s move to build the new route between Silchar and Lanka would invite more natural disasters in the Dima Hasao district. “The hill district has suffered massive devastation with trees being chopped down in the past few years because of work of projects like broad-gauge rail line and East-West corridor (Mahasadak) and this has caused an ecological imbalance. Due to the large-scale deforestation, the district witnessed one of the most devastating natural calamities in its history around two months ago. The new project’s materialisation will bring more miseries for people,” she said.
Dimasa Mothers’ Association’s president Bimala Langthasa said the existing Lumding-Silchar rail section should be repaired properly and a team of experts should be roped in for the task. “The rail department should not go ahead with its move to set up the new rail route. If the new railway line is made, the existing rail route will become non-operational someday and many people, whose livelihood depends on rail services in this section, will be affected. Apart from that, the new rail line’s materialisation would also mean the destruction of trees and hills and this will result in environment-related problems,” Langthasa said.
Mahila Shakti Mandal’s member Parbati Thaosen said the new Silchar-Lanka railway project’s implementation would cause environment-related issues in the Dima Hasao district. “Several trees and plants were damaged in Dima Hasao district during the railway gauge conversion project in 2015 and for construction of the East-West corridor (Mahasadak). The hilly region has already faced large-scale destruction and it will not be able to withstand more damage,” she said.
Trinamool Congress leader Joel Sengyung said they strongly oppose the NF Railway’s move to build the new rail route between Silchar and Lanka via Chandranathpur. “Dima Hasao district had suffered massive losses environmentally in 2015 when a huge number of trees were cut to set up the broad-gauge rail line and effects are now being seen in the form of landslides and other such geomorphic catastrophes. The hill district cannot afford to face similar losses again,” Sengyung said.
Congress’ Daniel Langthasa said the survey for setting up the alternate rail route is going on at present and stressed that the rail department should consult with all the local stakeholders regarding the project.
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