|Dayang bridge, constructed by NFR
Haflong, March 19: The Union ministry of environment and forests has asked Assam government to act against the Dima Hasao Autonomous Council for an alleged “illegal” handover of forestland to the railways for its gauge conversion project.
“The central ministry’s regional office in Shillong has sought action against those in the council responsible for the alleged illegal transfer of forestland to the railways. The ministry made the request in a recent official correspondence to Dispur,” an official source told The Telegraph.
The ministry is miffed with the council for the transfer of 3.619 hectare of land within the Barail reserve forest to the railways for its “national project” — the gauge conversion of the 170km Lumding-Badarpur section of Northeast Frontier Railway.
The railways had started gauge conversion work in the area, located between Harangajao and Ditockcherra railway stations, after the revenue authority of the council handed over the land. According to the source, the council had made the transfer only after railways had paid compensation.
“The railways had started work on two bridges in the area but on July 23, 2009, the work had to be stopped, as the forest department said the land fell inside the Barail reserve forest and the necessary forest clearance had not been taken,” the source said.
The railways then made an application to the forest authorities to de-reserve the forestland, which the ministry agreed to “in principle” on February 8, 2012. The railways subsequently paid a fee of around Rs 30.48 lakh to the ministry on March 16, 2012.
The source said the regional office of the ministry asked the Assam government in September 2012 to investigate the alleged illegal diversion of land by the autonomous council.
“The Assam forest department replied to the ministry in October 2012 elaborating the facts but the former was not satisfied with the Assam forest department reply and asked it to take appropriate action against the Dima Hasao Autonomous Council,” he said.
“Because of the ongoing tussle between the ministry and the autonomous council, the railway has not been able to resume gauge conversion work, including construction of two bridges, in the area till date,” the source said.
According to him, it will take at least eight to nine months to complete the two bridges and it is feared that the project may get delayed further.
In light of the tussle, it looks difficult for the already delayed project, which has a March 2015 completion date, to meet the deadline.