GTA agrees to railway line NOC; Binay Tamang shares details of project

Gangtok, 04 Apr:

GTA Board of Administrators Chairperson, Binay Tamang, today said that a No Objection Certificate will be handed over to the Indian Railways for the construction of the railway line from Sevoke to Rangpo within a week’s time.

“This we are giving as the demands of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration have been agreed upon by the Railways,” he said.

A meeting was also held today at Lalkothi today between six railway officials from Delhi and Guwahati and GTA representatives including Mr Tamang.

Mr Tamang maintained that the forest villagers will not be affected by this project and that the demand of Forest Rights Act was being taken up with the centre and state government.

He shared that the railway officials informed him that four railway stations along this line will fall within GTA jurisdiction at Sevoke, Rambi, Teesta (underground) and Melli. The final fifth station will in Rangpo in Sikkim.

“When the present Bengal chief minister was the Railway minister in the year 2009 the foundation stone was laid for this project but due to political disturbances and some technical difficulties the project could not take off. There were discussions going on regarding the NOC with the Railway ministry for which looking at the public sentiment and welfare we had made some demands which they have agreed to. Moreover, this is also an important project looking at the national interest with Darjeeling and Sikkim bordering China. Looking at the Railways agreeing to what we had asked we will soon give the NOC within a week’s time,” said Mr Tamang.

According to the GTA BoA chairman the project cost in the year 2008-2009 was Rs 1339.48 crore and due to the delay after revision the project cost escalated to Rs. 4084.69 crore in the year 2015 with the cost now being estimated to be anywhere between Rs 5,500 crore to Rs 6,000 crore.

He maintained that the total distance that the railway line will cover from Sevoke to Rangpo will be 44.98 km with 41.52 km falling under GTA area and the rest in Sikkim.

The project will consist of 14 tunnels with the majority of the project being underground at a depth of 30 metres to 1 km below. About 38.46 km of rail line will be underground. Apart from that there will be 22 bridges with 14 of them being major ones and the rest minor.

Mr Tamang added that the railways will be using the New Austrian Tunneling Method [NATM] for digging of the tunnels which will be vibration less and a safe method that will not affect the eco-system.

Mr Tamang also maintained that this project would also ensure self employment along a 10 km radius of the railway stations with hotels, restaurants along with taxis that could come up.

Commenting on the demands of the forest villages, Mr Tamang said, “The project will not affect the forest villagers as about 80 percent of the rail lines will pass through tunnels which will be below the land. The railways have also assured us that they will not allow them to be affected. As for their demand of Forest Rights Act districts is not related to this project. Districts like Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Coochbehar has already got them but there are 168 forest villages in the GTA area and all should come under it. We have taken up this matter with both the state government and the centre as forests here fall under both of them along with the GTA and only after verification this can be done.”

On the other hand the NFR Chief Administrative Officer [CON II A], Mr Prakash, said, “The process of NOC being given to us has started and we guarantee that all issues of public concern and the commitments we have given will be fulfilled. Once the project starts it will take 4 to 5 years to be completed.”

Mr Prakash maintained that the NATM method is used worldwide with such methods already used in Kashmir, Manipur and Mizoram. He also added that their dream was to take the railway line right up to Nathula at Sikkim but that could only come after their present project is completed.