Plea to curb night train traffic through Walayar forests

Kerala


30-odd elephants killed by speeding trains on Walayar-Madukkarai route since 2000: WPSI

30-odd elephants killed by speeding trains on Walayar-Madukkarai route since 2000: WPSI

The Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) has appealed to the government to restrict the night train movements through the Walayar forests in view of frequent elephant deaths on the railway tracks between Walayar and Madukkarai.

More than 30 elephants, including calves, were killed after hit by speeding trains between Walayar and Madukkarai since 2000. In spite of various measures adopted by Railways and the Forest Department, the elephant deaths continued unabated.

The WPSI conducted a study about the elephant deaths on the 15-km stretch of tracks between Walayar and Madukkarai, and submitted its recommendations to a panel of judicial officers who examined the scene on Sunday at the behest of the Madras High Court. WPSI South Asian project officer S. Guruvayurappan handed over the report the judicial officers from Chennai.

‘Shift B-track out of forest’

Mr. Guruvayurappan said that shifting of the Railway’s B-track out of the forest zone was one of the key recommendations. Most number of elephant deaths had taken place on B-track. “Night traffic should be made through the A-track, and long distance trains should be re-routed through Palakkad-Pollachi-Coimbatore route,” he said.

The other recommendations put forth by the WPSI were construction of elevated tracks with an eye on the future, construction of overbridges and underpasses in elephant corridors for the animals to cross, reduction of train speed between Walayar and Madukkarai, installation of surveillance cameras in curves, and preventing passengers’ food waste from falling on the tracks.

Complaints by eco groups

The court intervened in the matter in the wake of a series of complaints filed by environmental groups. The contrasting views held by the Forest Department and the Railways about the elephant deaths also prompted the judicial officers to visit the stretch of tracks in question.

Mr. Guruvayurappan pointed out that although the Forest Department would register cases when elephants are killed on the tracks, hardly any follow-up would take place. “We visited the spots several times, and made suggestions to Railways and the Forest Department to mitigate the animal tragedies,” he said.

Measures like power fence, chilli fence, and alarm system were installed. However, more elephants got hit as the train traffic increased over the years.



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