Environment

New plan to save jumbos from train hits

Assam, West Bengal and Uttarakhand are the States that have most number of elephants killed in train accidents. A file photo of two elephants killed after being hit by a train at Moraghat.

Assam, West Bengal and Uttarakhand are the States that have most number of elephants killed in train accidents. A file photo of two elephants killed after being hit by a train at Moraghat.

With nearly 186 elephants officially reported to have been killed due to collisions with trains in the last decade, the Union Environment Ministry and the Railways Ministry are exploring a project to minimise such accidents.

While piece-meal measures have been taken in States, the latest initiative is to analyse patterns geographically and propose measures that the Railways can feasibly implement.

The Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, an autonomous body, and the Environment Ministry, have had an initial round of discussions with officials in the Railways, said S.P. Yadav of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

Bilal Habib, a scientist at the WII and one of the leaders of the project, said that a draft document was expected to be readied in the next month. A preliminary analysis showed that the States with the highest elephant numbers were not always the ones with the most deaths. Assam, West Bengal and Uttarakhand were hilly States that saw the most number of casualties, said Mr. Habib.

Slopes were a tricky terrain for elephants and when the animals attempted to cross railway lines, they lingered longer near or on tracks resulting in collisions. “An elephant is the only mammal with six toes, one of which is exclusively for gripping slopes. Due to this, they take more time to descend slopes and when tracks are located at such locations, they tend to result in accidents,” Mr. Habib explained. Creating underpasses, or dedicated elephant passes near existing lines were not always feasible for the Railways, given the expenses, as it required as much as 20 kilometres of pathway on either side of the track.

Mr. Yadav cited instances of pachyderms refusing to abandon their young were they to get trapped on the lines, resulting in casualties.

In response to questions raised in Parliament on such collisions, the government said that it had put in place measures, such as providing fencing at selected locations, erecting signage board to warn locomotive pilots about identified elephant corridors, sensitising train crew and Station Masters on a regular basis, clearing vegetation on the sides of the track within railway land, deputing a Forest Department staff in Railway control offices to liaison with Railway, and have the Forest Department engage elephant trackers for timely action by alerting station Masters and locomotive pilots.


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Printable version | Jul 20, 2022 5:38:27 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/govt-exploring-ways-to-reduce-elephant-train-accidents/article65527517.ece