Construction of railway tracks delayed due to forest clearance issueThe Mechi-Mahakali Railway that passes through Rautahat is yet to receive clearance from Ministry of Forest and Environment for tree felling.
The construction work of the Mechi-Mahakali Railway along the Bagmati-Dhansar section in Rautahat is yet to start for a lack of clearance from the federal Ministry of Forests and Environment. The laying of tracks was supposed to start about a year ago, according to the Department of Railways.
The Department of Railways wrote to the forest ministry some 10 months ago seeking permission to cut down trees of the national forest to construct the railway track. The track construction work has been halted, as the ministry is yet to give permission to the department to cut down trees.
“The ministry has not responded to the railway department’s request. The construction work will be put on hold until we receive the ministry’s response,” said Sumit Pokharel, an engineer at the department.
According to Pokharel, the Department of Railways will use around 40.49 hectares of land of the national forest while constructing the railway track along the 17.8 km long Bagmati-Dhansar section in Rautahat district.
“We sent a file to the forest ministry on November 14, 2019, seeking permission to fell down 5,297 trees in the national forest. But the file is stuck in the ministry,” said Pokharel.
Binod Singh, chief at the Division Forest Office in Chandranigahapur, said that his office has not received any direction from the ministry about forest clearance for the construction of the railway track.
“The ministry has not sent us any files or correspondence in regards to the use of the forest area for the railway project,” he said.
The construction work of the track along the Bagmati-Dhansar section was also unable to take off due to the dispute between the locals and the project officials regarding compensation. The locals had been demanding fair compensation for their land since November 2019. The dispute was only resolved in May.
When asked about the file sent by the railways department, Hari Prasad Pandey, the information officer at the forest ministry, said he had no knowledge about the issue.
Different construction companies were awarded contracts to the railway track by dividing the section into four packages. Lumbini, Apex and Thani JV Construction Company had initiated work at package II some 14 months ago at the cost of Rs 700 million. Around 90 percent work at this package has been completed.
However, only 10 percent work of package I and package III has been completed so far. The construction of package IV is yet to begin. The national forest in Rautahat comes under packages I and IV.
The construction of all four packages should be completed by January 28, 2022, as per the contract signed with the government.