Environment Minister says no policy in the offing to stop elephant deaths by trains
The new minister for MoEF&CC Shri Anil Madhav Dave while replying to a question in Rajya Sabha, the upper house in the Parliament said that there is no policy at present under consideration to stop elephant deaths from speeding trains and electrocution. The minister said that Elephant is included under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, to provide it highest degree of legal protection and Twenty nine Elephant Reserves have been notified in 14 States for conservation of elephants.
In India according to the WPA, any vehicle involved in accident killing wild animals protected by law are impounded. However, trains belonging to the Indian Railways and owned by the Government of India, continues to repeatedly kill elephants throughout India and no action whatsoever has been taken against Indian Railways.
He said that general advisory was issued jointly to all the railway zones and relevant States Governments suggesting measures to prevent collision of trains with wild elephants. He claimed that the advisory given to the concerned agencies have resulted in significant reduction in the number of elephant deaths due to speeding trains and electrocution. However, the minister failed to provide any supporting data.
The advisory to the railway zones and state governments has these recommendations:
- Clearance of vegetation on the sides of railway tracks.
- Underpasses/overpasses/girder bridges across vulnerable stretches of railway tracks to allow safe passage elephants.
- Signage boards at selected points to alert train drivers.
- Sensitization programmes for Train Drivers/Guards/Station Masters.
- Engagement of elephant trackers and communication with Station Masters.
- To keep Railway tracks free from food wastes, that attracts elephants.
The minister further stated that a permanent coordination committee has been constituted jointly by the Ministry of Railways and the Ministry of Environment and Forests to share information and monitor the implementation of the advisory. In order to develop specific strategies and Standard Operating Procedures and for better coordination committees have been constituted between Zonal Railway Offices and State Forest Departments. Ministry of Railways has also been requested to regulate the speed of trains in identified vulnerable sections between sunset and sunrise. Chief Wildlife Wardens has been requested to take up the issue with electricity departments to prevent sagging of electric transmission lines and maintenance to minimum ground clearance as per rules.
Financial and technical assistance is provided to elephant range states under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme ‘Project Elephant’ for conservation and management of elephants. Improvement of elephant habitat, including Elephant Reserves and Corridors is carried out regularly.