Vizhinjam Railway Link: Port goes for changed green pitch

Vizhinjam International Seaport Limited (VISL) has submitted a new application to obtain an amendment to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EC) for the Tunnel Rail Link Project to Vizhinjam Port instead of the EC already obtained for the Overground Rail Link Proposal.

Previously, the Committee of Experts (EAC) at its September 2022 meeting asked for clarifications when considering the application for a revised EC.

According to the application documents submitted on the PARIVESH portal, the planned development of an underground railway tunnel aims to provide an optimal connection to the developing Vizhinjam port and is a mandatory requirement for the provision of the railway connection.

The project promoter has stated that the rail connection through the UG tunnel will help avoid settlements, minimize disruption to existing settlements and avoid disruption to existing utilities.

Electric locomotive trains are used and help to reduce pollution compared to diesel/steam powered trains.

The tunnel will help move the freight trains faster and evacuate the goods from the port faster.

Also, rail mode is faster and more economical than other modes of transport. Faster transportation will result in economic savings in the form of reduced rail operating costs, a reduction in transportation costs, etc., the document said.

The project is expected to start in June 2023 and be completed by December 2026. It is estimated that the project will require 1,94,000 tons of sand, 77,563 tons of cement, 3,10,252 tons of aggregate and 8,300 tons of steel.

Up to 132 trees will be affected and compensatory afforestation will be carried out. The tunnel will have a length of 9,430 m.

The route of the planned port railway line between Balaramapuram (BRAM) and Vizhinjam (VISL) starts in Balaramapuram and runs approximately 1.20 km parallel to the existing main line of the Southern Railway.

After that, the lines will turn left and pass through a 9.45 km tunnel before reaching the highest point of the VISL shipyard, the document said.

The EAC previously returned the proposed amendment to the EC, arguing that the proposal was a change in the scope of the existing proposal and could not be considered as an amendment to the EC proposal.

EAC also instructed the promoter to submit additional information and explanations.

It has been argued that the entrance to the proposed tunnel is only about 130 meters from the high tide line and as the area appears to be used by the local fishing community, the Committee of Experts determined that the project proponent needed to carry out a detailed study of the project to determine the risk of a Tunnel flooding during high tidal waves, hurricanes and studying the impact of tunneling in CRZ areas on access and use by the fishing community.

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