Two months after MiD DAY’s report on the illegal sand mining eating out the banks of Vaitarna River, senior officials from the Union railway ministry visited the spot and inspected construction of the dedicated freight corridor (DFC), and other railway bridges there.
Officials led by Subodh Jain, new member (engineering), Railway Board, and members of the DFC project visited the bridges over the Vaitarna river.
“We are at the receiving end of this problem of sand mining,” said Jain. Sources in the Western Railway (WR) said that senior officials who visited the spot wanted work on the abutment --the portion supporting the ends of the bridge -- to be expedited.
“This work is to strengthen the rail bridge, which has been affected by sand mining,” said a WR official. The abutment is being created to give additional support, and the work is supposed to end by March. The authorities said they had been waiting for a dry spell to begin work.
This paper had earlier reported (‘Sand mafia digs out riverbed, weakens Vaitarna rail bridge’, August 28) about how the foundation of a vital railway bridge -- used by Mumbai-Delhi trains -- had weakened due to the mining. Due to enfeebled pillars, trains are restricted to a speed not exceeding 20 kmph while crossing the bridge. Normally, long-distance trains run at 80-100 kmph until Virar, and at speeds close to 160 kmph beyond.
When MiD DAY last visited the spot, heaps of black soil were lying next to the rail bridge, and boats were moored to the bank. Locals claim that mining is carried out during late evening, in the cover of dark.
>> In August 2011, the WR first realised the problem after sand slipped off at Vaitarna Bridge due to heavy rainfall and washed away the railway tracks
>> The soil that keeps the pillars intact was being illegally dug out and taken away
>> This is used by several builders and developers with projects on the Virar-Dahanu route
>> Recently, the WR began operating suburban services on this 60-km route, which is used by at least 75,000 people daily