Apathy derails steps to check jumbo deaths on train tracks (India)


P Oppili|, Times of India 

Date Published


Technology like early warning and trip alert systems, largely remains on paper, showing a lack of conscientious efforts on the part of the railways to reduce the man-animal conflict. A chance discovery by Chennai-based wildlife activist T Gopi Mohan and his friend Ravi in the forest areas in Coimbatore showed that the various measures proposed to reduce elephant deaths on railway tracks near Walayar and Ettimadai railway stations had not been implemented. “The state wildlife officials said they would be setting up an early warning system, wherein anyone who spots elephants would alert train drivers, but nothing has been done in this regard,” said Gopi Mohan, noting that the system is operating in Valparai due to the efforts of the private body, Wildlife Conservation Society.

“Though signboards warning of elephant crossing zones have been installed along the railway tracks, they are too small to catch the eyes of drivers in the speeding trains,” said Gopi. Gopi Mohan said interaction with station masters of Walayar and Ettimadai revealed that there was no network to track movement of elephants.The setting up of motion sensors, as part of a trip alarm system, to pick up movement along train tracks has also not seen any progress.

Professor of Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru and Asian elephant expert Raman Sukumar said trains hitting elephants has been a persistent problem in northern part of West Bengal and parts of Assam as well, particularly because like Tamil Nadu, these states also have a considerably long train track running through forest land. Only Jharkhand and Uttarakhand have been able to rein in the problem as the incidents were confined to a small stretch.

In Coimbatore, the railway line cuts through a small patch of forest. “The only solution is to effectively barricade the track with a mechanical barrier for a few kilometers along the northern side of the railway line,” said Sukumar.

Indian Railways runs everyday on innumerable risk factors and this could be the one among the long list. These thing happens only in India, and we are calling ourselves Developing Nation to the west…Read MoreRamesh Indian

Another Asian elephant expert Ajay Desai suggests a flyover in the Kallar corridor in the Nilgiris may help reduce accidents. “Due to absence of such a path, these elephants from the Western and Eastern Ghats stray closer to human habitations and cross railway tracks,” he said.

But long-term solutions cannot be found without community involvement. An integrated rural development programme has to be formulated by various government departments such as education, rural development, employment and agriculture. “This issue needs to be treated as a socio-cultural problem. People need to be educated about protection and conservation. Only such an effort will help in the long run to mitigate this issue,” said Desai, explaining that farmers need to switch to crops which do not attract elephants to limit the man-animal conflict.