Panjim: When Indian Railways announced several improvements to the rail infrastructure in various parts of the country in 2010-11, the Government of India decided to upgrade the existing single track between Castlerock (Karnataka) and Vasco-da-Gama (Goa) to a double line. This decision was primarily taken to carry the state of Goa along the path of infrastructure development. As part of the double tracking project, Indian Railways would be providing improved amenities such as longer platforms, covered platforms, water booths, foot over bridges, toilets and ramps for differently abled passengers, at eight rail stations along the route.
As a national carrier, Indian Railways is committed to providing seamless travel facilities to passengers as well as cargo that serves human needs in some form or the other. Coal is one such cargo, mainly used in the generation of electricity and manufacturing steel. Unlike in the initial days of coal transportation, South Western Railways and Mormugao Port Trust have adopted several measures resulting in significantly improved management and movement of coal. These include covering and sprinkling of water on the coal during storage, unloading and loading through conveyor belts and covering the rail wagons with tarpaulin sheets during transportation to prevent coal dust from flying.
The second rail line will run parallel to the existing century-old single line which passes through the Wild Life Sanctuary and National Park. It would be pertinent to note that out of 240 Sq Km Protected Area (PA), the Railways possess only 0.87 Sq Km of land, i.e. about 0.3% of the total area. Considering the likely effect of the double tracking project on the ecology, Indian Railways finalized the project plans only after receiving the Environmental Impact Assessment Study report from the Indian Institute of Science–Bangalore. These take into account relevant recommendations and mitigation measures such as exercising speed control, construction of eco-ducts, canopies and animal underpasses, to minimize the barrier effect and animal conflict on the tracks.
Indian Railways value people’s concern for the environment. The new line will pass through a 12.5 km tunnel in order to reduce the number of tree cuttings and disturbance to the existing biodiversity in the protected area. There is a robust arrangement to plant 10 trees for every tree that might be cut in the process of implementing this project. Towards this ongoing initiative, nearly three thousand trees have already been planted in different locations. Likewise, the new line in the Dudhsagar area will pass through an underground tunnel from behind the waterfall without disturbing its iconic look and ecological biodiversity.
“Doubling of railway tracks on vital routes is a national policy and such developmental projects need to be considered in interests of the future. Double tracking is necessary for improving inter-state and intra state connectivity of Goa. It is also crucial from the defense point of view, given Goa’s strategic location on our western coast. The Railways are doing everything possible to strike a balance between environment preservation and development,” states the PRO, Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd.