View Full Version : Death on the tracks.

Lakshminarayanan Nataraja
20-07-2009, 10:12 PM
Increased runovers in the Walayar ghat section:

There are 2 broad gauge railyway lines connecting the cities of Palakkad in Kerala and Coimbatore in Tamilnadu. The total gang length between the two cities is 50Kms and most of this route is traversing through the Walayar Ghats of the Western Ghats mountain ranges. The Walayar ghats is contiguous to Nilgiri Biosphere reserve and the Kerala forests.

The two Railway lines are line-A and Line-B. Line B traverses through the middle of the forest whereas line-A passes in the fringes. Both are energized tracks. The ghat section actually commences from a station called Kanjikode and ends a few miles before the Palakkad junction. The traffic is very heavy with numerous trains both goods and passenger, plying ceaselessly day till night. With every railway budget, a new train is announced to Kerala state which invariably passes through this route.

The vital elephant corridors in Coimbatore, Nilgiris and Palakkad regions of the Western Ghats are fast shrinking and hence elephants often migrates through obscure Walayar ghats where, there seems to perennial availability of forage and water. The elephants crossing railway tracks is a common phenomenon here. The crossing is perilous for elephants and 7 runovers were officially reported during the last 16 months. Environmental groups and wildlife enthusiasts based in Coimbatore region asserts more unreported runovers. They claim that the runover of smaller mammals lilke Sambar deer (Cervus unicolor) goes unnoticed.

The grave conservation threat is of no importance to the railways. Their apathy and lack of cooperation to reduce such runovers is worth condemnation.

The energized lines with 25KV ohd wire are death-defying for elephants if they accidently establish a direct contact.
The prescribed speed restriction (65km/hr for passenger trains and 25km/hr for goods trains) is very high and needs to be immediately revisited to less than 25km/hr (or even less) for both Passenger and goods trains.
Even the prescribed speed limits are often breached. Engine drivers seldom adhere to the speed limits.
There is absolutely no awareness among the train crew about the vital wildlife conservation issue for which they are directly related to.

The majority of trains these days are fitted with AC locomotives which possess very good braking capacity. If a revised speed restriction is imposed and if followed religiously the number of runovers will largely reduce.

However for a permanent remedy, longterm landscape level conservation measures should be opted in this ecologically important and fragile elephant country.

Post script: I have been only once to this area that too not on a complete wildlife expedition. A careful study and documentation of facts (with sufficient illustrations) is the need of the hour if we can influence a long term conservation measure. [B]Primarily the topography needs to be assessed.

AB Apana
21-07-2009, 08:55 AM
Which environmental groups are monitoring this situation?


Lakshminarayanan Nataraja
21-07-2009, 09:52 AM
Hello Apana,

OSAI, a Coimbatore based organization is active in this issue. Also WPSI is engaged in save-elephants campaign taken up by one Mr. Guruji of Palakkad.

However, we need to check more on this.


AB Apana
21-07-2009, 10:07 AM
Thanks for this.


Abhishek Jamalabad
21-07-2009, 06:20 PM
Didn't know about this issue in such detail. Thanks for this info.
Anything we can do as individuals?

Bibhav Behera
21-07-2009, 07:24 PM
At Indiawilds, we have had some good discussions on similar issues. What I feel is taht can we guys actually get together as a group and do something about it/other issues also. As in take our conservation motives not only on the net but also more on the field. There have been a few initiatives taken by Indiawilds in the field of conservation. Let us see how we can contribute towards it even more...

Sabyasachi Patra
21-07-2009, 10:04 PM

Thanks for updating us. I would love some more data and the views of the Railways. Most of the deaths don't get properly recorded, especially of smaller mammals. This is an unfortunate situation that is happening in various parts of India.

Our development planners have no clue about the importance of our wilderness and wildlife.

There can be a short term and long term solution to this issue. As a short term measure, all trains passing through the area should be asked to maintain speed limits. 65 kmph for passenger trains is too high as the braking distance will be very high. Strick instructions to this effect would help.

As a long term measure, one needs to look at alternate alignments of the train lines. Also, in places where alternate alignments are not possible, one needs to create overpass and underpass for the passage of wildlife.

We will support the groups taking up this issue and we will take up this cause with the appropriate authorities like our previous campaigns.


Mrudul Godbole
23-07-2009, 05:52 PM
I was totally unaware of this situation. There are so many issues in various parts of India, that we do not even know of. They are never highlighted in the newspapers and so people dont know about them. Even the train drivers would be unaware as to what problem their action might be causing.

This is quite a serious situation, and I am afraid it requires big steps to be taken. We need to think what we can do in this regard.

Thanks for bringing it to everyones notice.

Lakshminarayanan Nataraja
28-07-2009, 08:42 PM

Dr. AJT Johnsingh reported that even in Uttaranchal, there was a similar problem of wildlife being runover by trains.

However, due to painstaking efforts the runovers have largely reduced and is almost nil during the last 7 years. WTI's (Wildlife trust of India) share in acheiving this feat is commendable.

Need to have some groups working in similar fashion in the Walayar area too. Will be great if we from India wilds think as to how we can act towards this issue.

Primarily, we need to survey the region and collect data to recommend speed limits. Secondly, littering in the tracks atleast in this stretch should be controlled. Johnsingh asserted that wildungulates prefers salt and food wastes thrown by passengers attract them and eventually there is risk of runover.


Sagar Patil
01-08-2009, 12:54 AM
Run-over is really a big issue and is discussed since past.

I had a discussion with my friend from Kerala who is passionate about railways and technologies like me.

The actual region where runover takes place has series of gradients. There are many trains which pass through this region and most of them are with 20 to 24 coaches. The speed restriction of 65 kmph should be maintained on the gradient otherwise train will stall if speed goes below it. So train can't start on the gradient until any banker (another locomotive pushes train from behind) comes and helps.According to loco drivers, they follow necessary majors, like honking horns from distance to alert elephants and other mammals.

But of course the life of an elephant is more important than delay in reach for the train.

We discussed some remedies like, Use of ultrasonic sound as train approches to keep mammals away from the track. This technique is used in Australia to keep kangaroos away. I don't know whether this technique is hygienic for such mammals or not.

It is heard that, there are discussions going on between Southern Railway and Forest Department of Kerala.

I have my Rail-fanning group in Kerala which may push-up this issue and support other conservative groups. Will do my best.

Also there are other such places where this problem is seen. Like one in North-East West Bengal i.e. Mahanada Wildlife Sanctuary which features Elephants. I have traveled on this route which goes from New Jalpaiguri to Guwahati through Sanctuary.

Sagar Patil
01-08-2009, 08:32 PM
This is what there on Southern Railway website

Please visit:


Mrudul Godbole
01-08-2009, 10:05 PM
That is very useful information about trains and their working. I hope the railways and the forest department works our some solution. Its good to hear that you will follow it. Do keep us updated.