Uttarakhand Railway Project from Rishikesh to Karanprayag: Pros and Cons
Devbhoomi Uttarakhand's mountains have been the living abode for Abstainers, hermits, monks and Sanyasis who have renounce the world and took shelter in mother Himalaya's lapel. The Uttarakhand's natural phenomena has attracted thousands who staked their life in search of truth and blessed with serenity.
In the materialistic world if you see Uttarakhand as a political state and its contribution to Indian economy, It will not have a countable worth, but as far as UK state's contribution towards environment is concerned it has major impact in improving the green house gases effect and has saved the India's face in carbon emissions as a developing country.
In the wake of Indian Government recent decision to build a railway network in this Himalayan state region, It can be evaluated from Govt's two objects:
- Development of Uttarakhand as Himalayan state as it was left under-developed for many decades.
- To counter threats which emanated from intensive development activity by China in Tibet region along the borders of India.
The Govt has already signified Its intentions that there are apparent threats from Chinese intrusion in border areas in Uttarakhand and Govt thinks that for proper transportation of troops and vehicles and defence equipment the Army needs fast movement of security equipment to the border region. The second argument given by some experts that Uttarakhand also needs development and this new rail network will work as blood veins for development of the hilly region of Uttarakhand.
Some eye opening facts from feasibilty study about this project:
- The cost of this project evaluated at Rs.16,200 Crore.
- The total length of this rail route will be 125 Kms.
- This rail route will have total 16 bridges and 85% of the rail route or 105 Kms route will be under long tunnels.
- The length of the longest tunnel will be 15.1 Kms and this will be the longest tunnel of India under any route.
Seismic vulnerability of Uttarakhand
The state of Uttarakhand is among the most seismically active parts of India. Many events of M5.5 or more have struck the region since 1900. The state straddles several active parallel thrust faults that form the ranges of the Himalayan mountain range. These faults have been formed in the highly folded strata of these mountains. The Main Boundary Thrust (MBT) and the Main Frontal Thrust (MFT) are the main active (4) features in Uttarakhand. Slippage on these faults and their counterparts have in the part generated great (M>7.5) earthquakes. Since the last earthquake of this magnitude range in this region occurred more than 200 years ago, this section of the Himalayan thrust zone is believed to have the greatest potential (3) for a future great (M>7.5) earthquake. The region of potential danger is known as the Central Seismic Gap, and underlies Uttarakhand and western Nepal. Smaller faults (4) such as the Yamuna Fault near Haridwar and Alaknanda Fault near Rudraprayag have been active during the Holocene period. The plate boundary between the Indian and Eurasian plates lies in southern Xizang (or Tibet) and is known as the Indus-Tsangpo Suture Zone. A report by The Amateur Seismic Centre, Pune. (www.asc-india.org)
The Govt thinks if it resorts to the development of rail network in Uttarakhand, it may automatically be able to develop Uttarakhand. It is still unclear, whether it is bureaucratic decision, BJP political decision, PM Modi’s personal opinion or State demand. But, the final decision has been already taken by PM Modi in this regard.
As a citizen point of view, if I see this decision, I will definity presume it as a hasty decision. I also presume that maximum people will support this decision at glance by contending that Uttarakhand's fast development is already vested in it. Being a citizen of Uttarakhand, I also want the development of Uttarakhand but not at the cost of heavily digging mountains and tunnels by disturbing ancient eco-system of fragile and porous rocks which barely hold the enormous water stored within the rocks and let the natural rivers flowing un-abated for thousand years. It is already known truth that rivers in Garhwal region change the flow on small land-slide and adjust the eco-system auotmatically. Any human interference will lead to the mass destruction in this Himalayan Garhwal region.
Can this be possible if, we develop Uttarakhand wisely keeping in mind about delicate and sensitive ecology of this Garhwal region and also restrict Chinese intrusion in border areas? I will answer this question affirmatively as a layman and will first concentrate on the planned development of this region. If it were not a decision in haste, It will have a very good plan of phased development of 5 to 6 years. If there some experts from neighbouring IITs and economists were hired than It would have a very fruitful plan for development for this region.
I have travelled a lot in Gharhwal region and from time to time I contemplated about the development of this region having enormous opportunities. Every time I went in hilly region, I came back with a new idea for development of this region. Now, I found the time to re-collect my notes and summed-up these in enumerated way for development of Garhwal region:
- Construction of minimum 4 lane roads except already existed congested cities roads.
- Construction of airstrips and helipads for fast moving goods and services including military operations.
- Development of plain areas in high mountains for parking of large vehicles, Godowns, Administrative Offices, Private company offices.
- More development and expansion of organic Agriculture, Horticulture and Floriculture with latest techniques.
- Development of irrigation facilities in remote areas through wind-mills.
- Development of roads to village access and broadening and improvement of already existed roads for speedy transportation of goods.
- Establishment of block level co-operative societies to monitor agriculture produce yield, produce quality, provisioning of quality seeds and manure, renting of farm-tools, farmer credit facilities, accumulation of farm produce and transportation to nearest Mandi or directly to the buyers situated in other states via fast moving logistics or direct export by air.
- Establishment of Food processing industries in integrated format like Food Parks to process Agricultural and horticulture and Floriculture items in organic form. There are already possibilities of setting-up food processing units for Jam processing from apple and apricot, oats making from grain which usually grown in Uttarakhand, organic Perfumatory products from Floriculture from rare flowers naturally grown in Uttarakhand. Bags and envelops manufacturing from dried leaves of pine trees from forest area. This will lead to the employment generation for the local people and will help check in labour migration.
- Plantation of more fruit trees to balance the eco-system of Uttarakhand that will be useful for further processing within fruit processing units to be installed within Food Parks in Uttarakhand.
- Setting-up of high grade Educational Institutions, Mangement Institutes, Universities and Research Institutions, so that It may tempt highly educated people to this region for work and expand their career. This will reverse the flow of people migration and will tend to mountains from metro cities.
- Establishment of high grade Medical Research Institutes in calm and cool mountains so that people might be gratified living with high standards of medical facilities.
If almost everything quoted above is implemented then will not only check the further migration of people from hill area but it will also inspire already migrated people to return home. Ultimately this will also inspire small entrepreneurs to set-up small scale industries and will improve the unorganised service sector.
The main reason of china ill-intention to eye on Uttarakhand hilly region is that most of people have already migrated to big cities in plain areas and presently the mountains neighbouring China are already dried of people who were living here for centuries. No one cares this land except our border army (ITBP). But watching neighbouring China in deep mountains only by our security forces is not wise and justified. Security forces also needs local inputs to plan and save the borders in bad weather relations with China.