Narrow Gauge

The Railways are all set to replace the narrow gauge From Jabalpur to Nainpur in Madhya Pradesh with Broad Gauge. Rather than replacing the old railway line can we build an additional line? A well researched case has been made for this and the author says the financial implications of this alternate scheme is not more than an additional 6% of the project cost. What do we gain? Maintenance of the natural beauty of this route and minimum disturbance to two famous national parks on the way. Is the Railway Ministry listening? Can IWC members take up this case with the concerned officials?

Mr. Ananthanarayanan 's column " Simple Science" in the Mumbai dailies is extremely popular and he has authored a few books on Science being made simple. A keen observer of nature, Mr. Ananthanarayanan has also been a keen member of IndianWildlifeClub.com from its inception. He can be contacted at simplescience@gmail.com

A proposal to save the Narrow Gauge connection from Jabalpur to Nainpur from being destroyed in providing a Broad Gauge link

The state of Madhya Pradesh possesses a great asset and also has a great responsibility. The asset is the rich vegetation and wildlife of the reserves, Bandhavgarh, Kanha and at Seoni. These natural, unspoiled forest areas are among the only places in the world where the tiger, deer and crocodile are still found in the wild.

At the same time, Madhya Pradesh has the responsibility of saving and preserving these rarest of rare remnants of the world's natural heritage.

It is important for Madhya Pradesh to find ways to leverage the international tourist potential of these assets, equally for the world to relish, for Madhya Pradesh to prosper and for financing the work of preserving the environment. Financial instruments can be developed to raise resources to build infrastructure, on the potential and viability of the proposition.

Another equally valuable and rare heritage that Madhya Pradesh is blessed with is the length of Narrow Gauge Railway track that remains after the last few years of conversion to Broad Gauge. These kilometers of NG may now be last instances in the world. These lines also pass through picturesque forestland and, correctly developed and packaged, these can also be tourism attractions that would complement the other marvels of the state.

Jabalpur – Nainpur Narrow Gauge Line

The Jabalpur-Gondia line is under conversion to BG, in view of the value of a BG line connecting JBP to the south without touching Itarsi. The work has progressed from the Gondia end right up to Nainpur. But the JBP-Nainpur portion is intact.

n view of the value of the existing N G line, a proposal is here developed for retaining this NG portion and to provide a separate BG link from JBP to Nainpur. It is seen that the financial implications are not major.

Implications
The distance from Jabalpur to Nainpur is 109 km. The estimated cost of the new Broad Gauge line, from Jabalpur to Nainpur, is Rs 160 crore. It is seen that out of this distance of 109 km, for a considerable portion of the new Broad Gauge line, the alignment needs to be outside the path of the existing Narrow Gauge line. It is this fresh alignment that contributes major cost to the existing project. This fact reduces the financial implications of retaining the Narrow Gauge track intact, even in the short portions where the new alignment is along the existing line.

A perusal of the survey conducted by the South Eastern Railway reveals that the additional cost of leaving the entire Narrow Gauge line untouched, in the course of constructing the Broad Gauge link in the Jabalpur to Nainpur section, is just Rs 10 crore, over the estimated project of Rs 160 crore. This estimate is with the assumption that about 50% of the additional land that would need to be acquired for retaining the N G line, which is Government or forest land, would be made available free of cost. A provision of Rs 3 crore for the private land to be acquired has been made.

Advantages
This cost of Rs 10 crore would thus preserve, for alternate use, this heritage NG line between Jabalpur and Nainpur. Nainpur is the rail-head for Kanha. In fact, there is a narrow guage line from Nainpur, running East, to Mandla. This line passes through the peripheral forest of Kanha . At 29 km from Nainpur, on this line, there is a station, Bamhani-Banjhar, which is very close to an entrance gate to Kanha National Park . There is also a continuous NG line from Nainpur to Nagpur . Kanha would thus have NG rail approach from Nagpur and Jabalpur . The line from Nagpur also passes Seoni, Mowgli country, where there has been development of wildlife habitat tourism.

The exploitation of these two Narrow Gauge lines, as tourist attractions in their own right and also as a ‘value added' means to reach Seoni and Kanha, could result in sizeable tourist traffic and revenue. With better road approach to Bandhavgarh, from Jabalpur , there could be developed a 'circuit' of natural/wildlife heritage in this area. The proximity to Marble Rocks, Amarkantak (the source of the Narmada ), Khajuraho, the temples and archeological sites in the vicinity, would make the territory a center of cultural and natural tourism

The airport at Jabalpur may become viable and this in turn would benefit tourism, the hotel industry and other commercial activity.

n the bargain, the Narrow Gauge lines would be saved and the enterprise would provide revenue to fund other conservation activities.


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