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HSR: Laying the tracks for a greener & sustainable India

HSR: Laying the tracks for a greener & sustainable India.

With the laying of the foundation stone for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Railway Project (MAHSR) in 2017, both India & Japan took a giant leap towards strengthening their long-term sustainable economic relationship. Since then, the project has gained a formidable reputation of being the foremost example of showcasing the best of both the worlds- the Japanese art of perfection & execution; and the innovative & sustainable practices followed by Indians.  

These factors aside, the one major aspect MAHSR project is significantly focusing on is that of keeping an eco-friendly approach towards one of its main stakeholders: the environment. In the wake of rising concerns over issues like climate change, global warming and alarming pollution levels, the idea of putting India on the fast-track to progress & prosperity needs to be tackled with care and responsibility. Therefore, every measure is being taken in the process to protect the environment and make this project an environmentally feasible one. 

                                                                                         QUICK FACTS ON HSR 
Contrary to popular belief, the HSR can prove to be more fuel-efficient compared to other modes of transport as energy consumption in running the train would be less than that for both private cars and air travel. According to a report by IEA, rail accounts for 8% of the world’s motorised passenger movements and 7% of freight transport, yet uses just 2% of the world’s transport energy demand.  
According to a study by the International Union of Railways, Co2 emission for a 600 km trip per passenger by high speed rail is 8.1 Kg as compared to 67.4 kg for car travel and 93 kg for aeroplane travel  
The construction of HSR requires 70% lesser land compared to the one required for building an expressway with more carrying capacity  
HSR will be a speedier mode of transport than roadways or airways for covering the distance between 500 & 700 kms. Taking into account what flying entails- travelling from home to airport, check-in & security check time, baggage pick-up- taking HSR for shorter distances will definitely prove to be a big-time saver.  

As an organisation that has taken upon the responsibility of providing India with its first high-speed Bullet Train, NHSRCL at no point feels bogged down by the pressures of the mammoth task ahead of it. Sharing his views on the eco-friendly measures the organisation is taking at every level, Achal Khare, MD, NHSRCL adds, “We are looking to find innovative ways to recycle/reuse construction waste generated from the project. As a step towards Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and a movement against single-use plastic, we will be using a large amount of polythene waste for a cost-effective construction material like paver blocks. The project will also undertake tree transplantation to minimise environmental impact, and rain water harvesting will be used extensively in the project.” 

To gauge and evaluate the social and environmental impact of an activity of this level, detailed assessment studies were undertaken. These studies have helped NHSRCL to come up with measures to minimize or mitigate the impact of the construction work on the environment. Here’s a glimpse of some of the steps being taken by NHSRCL to make the MAHSR project an environmentally feasible & viable one. 

Ecology focused measures

As a well-thought and plan based project, the MAHSR is completely dedicated to improving the habitat of the wildlife and ecology in the vicinity of its project. Therefore, all efforts are being planned in the direction of making sure that no wildlife is disturbed because of the corridor or construction activity. In order to preserve the natural habitats of the migratory birds ‘Flamingos’ and the adjoining eco-sensitive zones in the Thane creek area, a major landmark decision to construct an underground tunnel (up to 40m below the ground level) was taken. With this decision, NHSRCL has made sure that the natural life in the area will have to undergo minimum disturbance.

Without changing the location of Thane station, design of station was modified and 12 hectares of affected Mangrove region got reduced to only 3 hectares. So this way, NHSRCL has saved around 21000 mangroves and now only 32044 mangroves will get affected from the entire project. 

And, this is not the net loss of the mangroves, because NHSRCL will get the affected mangroves from the bullet train project compensated at the rate of 1:5, by depositing money into Mangroves cell, which will do the compensatory afforestation of the mangroves. So the number of affected mangroves are 32044 and around 160000 new mangroves will be planted and the entire financial expense will be borne by NHSRCL.  

Furthermore, measures are being undertaken to transplant the trees and to achieve this task, ‘Tree Spade Technology’ is being utilised at various construction sites. The use of this technology would ensure that each uprooted tree will be taken to a new plantation site and replanted. This way, NHSRCL is making sure to cause minimum damage to the environment.  

Construction focused measures

Apart from taking adequate steps to preserve the flora & fauna, measures are also being taken to reduce the impact on the environment during the construction phase of the project. Industry best practices, processes and systems are being followed to maintain cleaner and greener surroundings at all the construction sites. To reduce noise pollution and the vibration impact of the railway system during the operation stage, various improvements in the designs of train, tracks and tunnels have been introduced.

Provisions have also been made for the introduction of sound absorbing panels, bogie side covers, tunnel entrance hoods and much more to supress the noise and keep other construction related hassles at the lowest  

Dedicated, state-of-the-art and fully equipped maintenance and green depots have been planned for Sabarmati, Thane and Surat. These well designed depots will help in fulfilling the requirement of water during the construction phase, water reservoirs have been planned inside the maintenance depots. Rain water harvesting is a major part of the process and to treat the water collected during the monsoon season, a separate treatment plant will also be constructed within the depot. Alongside, recharge pits have also been planned to conserve the water. Besides this, these depots will be designed keeping in mind the aspects of noise control, dust suppression and proper ventilation to provide a healthy working environment for the people. NHSRCL is also stresses upon the usage of alternative energy resources like solar power in its depots.

As an organisation, NHSRCL is aware of the imperative need to preserve the environment. Therefore, it is endeavouring to achieve a quality high-speed rail system while maintaining and restoring the environment and the community at its best.