Chandigarh-Baddi rail link hits rough patch

CHANDIGARH: The Chandigarh-Baddi rail route has run into rough terrain with the environment department objecting to its proximity to the Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary. This is the latest spanner in the works for the proposal, which has been encountering one roadblock after another for the last four years.

According to sources, the latest decision of the UT administration to give a go ahead to the proposal to declare the sanctuary an eco-sensitive zone has minimized chances of the project materializing.

In 2009, the UT dug its heels in by refusing land for the project for the same reason and suggested to the Indian Railways to consider extending the Chandigarh-Pinjore line instead.

This evoked sharp criticism from the then Himachal government. The UT is of the view that the rail line will lead to unwanted commotion in the immediate proximity of the sanctuary across Sukhna Lake. Refusing to make a direct comment, Santosh Kumar, conservator of forest and wildlife said the project had still not been accepted or rejected.

To go about identifying the eco-sensitive zone in the catchment area of Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary, the UT Administration had roped in the Wildlife Institute of India at Dehradun for expert advice. The final recommendation report was submitted to the Centre by the UT Administration to demand eco-sensitive status for the catchment area.

The Wildlife Sanctuary spreads over an area of nearly 26 square kms in the catchment area of Sukhna Lake. Of the total catchment area of the Sukhna Lake, nearly 29 sq km falls in Chandigarh, 2.77 sq km in Punjab and about 10.22 sq km in Haryana.

As per the Master Plan, development in the north and north east of Chandigarh will go against the effort to get heritage status as the Capitol Complex is located in that area. The area includes the ecologically fragile forest area, wildlife sanctuary and catchment area of Sukhna Lake.