NEW DELHI: First, the proposal was to construct flyovers on railway tracks to allow elephants safe passage. Then realization dawned that elephants may be unwilling to take flyovers, so it would be better to build underpasses at the usual routes taken by the pachyderms.
And now, efforts to save elephants from getting knocked down by trains appear to have reached war footing with the Supreme Court suggesting deployment of advanced radars used by defence forces to trace and inform train drivers about presence of elephants on railway tracks.
On the suggestion of petitioner Shakti Prasad Nayak’s counsel Sanjeeb Panigrahi, the court asked the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) and railways to explore the option of using Battlefield Surveillance Radar System to prevent accidents.
The court on Tuesday said the task of MoEF and railways was cut out – the ministry will map the traditional migration routes of elephants and pinpoint places where they cross railway tracks to facilitate railways to construct underpasses there.
A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Vikramjit Sen also proposed many options, all of which were at some point of time discussed in the court or proposed by the government, and requested solicitor general Ranjit Kumar to coordinate between them for an expeditious and coordinated response to prevent death of elephants.
When the bench noticed that the SG was presenting arguments on behalf of the railways, it said, “You (the railways) are concerned only about running of trains and not bothered about wildlife.”
But it took exception to MoEF’s casual approach as it found no lawyer was present to represent the ministry in an important case like this. The bench summoned the MoEF secretary and asked him to be present in the court on September 23 with an affidavit detailing the steps taken by the ministry to save elephants from being killed on train tracks.
The bench said after MoEF identified the elephant migration routes and the points where it intersected the railway track, “the railways can make underpass in the identified corridors so that elephants do not stray on to tracks”.
The apex court asked the ministries to make optimum use of available technology to detect presence of elephants on tracks and forewarn train drivers to push the brakes to avoid crashing into the herd. The court suggested use of thermal imaging cameras and electronic eyes on tracks to get information about presence of elephants on tracks and communicate this to train drivers.
Advocating liberal use of technology to prevent elephant deaths on rail tracks, the bench asked MoEF and railways to try out modern wireless animal tracking system, satellite space navigation system and last but not the least Battlefield Surveillance Radar System.
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