The Gujarat High Court today directed the Indian Railways to file a detailed affidavit on the impact of the proposed broad-gauging and electrification of railway track passing through the Gir Sanctuary on the Asiatic lions and other wildlife in the region.
The division bench of Justices N V Anjaria and A P Thaker observed that the measures to protect the Asiatic lions, the pride of not just Gujarat but the entire Asia, are not only expected from the Gujarat government, but from all the authorities who operate within the sanctuary area.
The bench directed the Railway authorities to file an affidavit exhaustively dealing with all aspects of the impact the railway line passing through the sanctuary has had.
The court was hearing a civil application on the impact of the proposed broad gauging and track electrification of the railway lines and laying of pipelines for gas, oil and optical fibres.
The Railway authorities are expected to make their stand clear by furnishing on oath details about the present railway line passing in the area, the frequencies thereof, the density of passengers, mishaps, if any, which have occurred involving lions because of the running of the trains, the court said in its order.
Apart from this, the Railways should also give details of the proposed broad-gauging of the lines and possible effects on the wildlife in the sanctuary in general, and the species of Asiatic lions in particular, it stated.
"Such an affidavit, not limited to these aspects only, but exhaustively dealing with all the aspects, will be filed," it said, fixing the date for the next hearing on October 12.
The civil application, in connection with the suo motu PIL, was filed by amicus curiae Hemang Shah on the basis of newspaper reports.
The application sought the court's direction for cancellation of allotment of land from the state government for the projects, and direction to the state government and the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) to not to allot 150 hectares of land for the railway project.
If any such land has already been allotted, then the same should be cancelled, the applicant has appealed.
In its response, the state government has said that the railway lines were the domain of the Indian Railways, and the state has not yet approved the proposal received from the SBWL for broad-gauging and track electrification, as it finds it wanting in various aspects.
The proposal is currently under reconsideration of the SBWL, the state government stated.
The proposal is at a nascent stage and there is nothing happening on the ground, as every aspect will have to be examined, the government stated.