Wildlife & Biodiversity

Committee must take steps to curb elephant deaths by trains in Kerala, Tamil Nadu: NGT

Committee to work in coordination with the Railways, Wildlife Institute of India as well as Kerala and Tamil Nadu

By Susan Chacko
Published: Tuesday 13 July 2021

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Central Monitoring Committee constituted by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to look into the media report on elephant deaths caused by trains in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

The committee would work in coordination with the Railways, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and the governments of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Project Elephant was launched in 1992 by the Union environment ministry to provide financial and technical support to wildlife management efforts of states to protect their elephants.  

A joint meeting must be held by the committee with the states and the Southern Railways in a month to work out necessary modalities, including with the authority that will incur expenditure, the court said.

A news report from the national daily The Hindu dated May 29, 2021 about night and early morning trains causing most elephant deaths prompted the NGT to consider the issue, June 25.  

The report claimed that several elephants died on a railway track from Kottekad in Kerala and Madukkarai in Tamil Nadu. A total of seven elephants lost their lives after being hit by trains on B line (passing through reserve forest for 23 kilometres between Madukkarai- Kanjikode stations) and one elephant was killed on A line (that runs through reserve forest for 17 km between Chullimada-Madukkarai stations) between 10 pm and 6 am.

The Palakkad Railway Division has taken various measures to mitigate elephant hit by trains, including:

  • Restrictions on speed on the vulnerable sections
  • Sign boards designed to warn train drivers; using whistles to warn elephants
  • Wires with low voltage to deter elephant entry inside railway track area
  • Provision of ramps at suitable locations for passage of elephants
  • Provision of solar lights to ward off elephants and improve visibility for train drivers during night time between Kanjikode and Walayar
  • Installation of audio alarm with honey bee sound to scare away elephants
  • Widening of cutting and cess making
  • Engagement of elephant trackers by MoEF&CC and communication with station masters
  • Sensitising programme for train drivers / guards and station masters
  • Under passes across the railway track to allow elephants to escape
  • Regular clearing of vegetation in the area
  • Interaction of forest officials and railways on real time basis

The report filed by Tamil Nadu stated that a poor visibility on the tracks and an unfavourable topography led to the deaths.

An inter-ministerial meeting was held between the Railways and the MoEF&CC and measures discussed to construct under bridges, fencing and side drains. The MoEF&CC, however, failed to make the payment and the said steps were not taken, the court said.

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