Oct 17, 2016

Doon-Haridwar Rail Track, – a Graveyard of Wildlife

Forest officials all set to take a tranquilized elephant to Pauri Garhwal after it was hit by a train near Raiwala in Haridwar on Saturday. The animal later died.

Haridwar: A 14-km railway track, which runs right through the Rajaji Tiger Reserve, has been identified as a killer stretch due to the wildlife causalities it has claimed over the years.Though laid more than 100 years ago, the track now faces enormous pressure as rail traffic has increased. More than 35 trains cross this stretch every day and thus, the wildlife vulnerability has increased manifold.Trains have also started running at a high speed along these tracks than they used to be a few decades ago. The railway authorities had recently completed the electrification of the Dehradun-Haridwar railway track, which is bound to further strengthen the train movement on these tracks.Elephants need to cross the track to use habitat, water or food on the other side of the park. As many as 20 elephants had died after being hit by trains between 1987 and March, 2002.The Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), under its Rapid Action Project, set up a task force in collaboration with the Northern Railways and the Uttarakhand Forest Department and succeeded in checking the repeat of such incidents.Patrolling the track at night, clearing bushes and overhangs from strategic points so that train drivers had better visibility, desisting waterholes that elephants used to lessen the need for crossing the track and public awareness among passengers, train drivers and forest guards were some of the measures taken as part of the ‘Train Hits Mitigation Project’.The project got an instant success as after 2002, the elephant causalities had almost stopped.But in recent years, there has been a recurrence of such incidents. In January, 2014, two elephants were crushed to death by Delhi-bound Jan Shatabdi and now, yesterday’s incident, where an elephant was hit by Nandadevi Special train, has come as a matter of concern for the conservationists. Dinesh Chandra Pandey, a senior WTI official in Uttarakhand, said wildlife was vulnerable as the train movement gains ground between Dehradun and Haridwar. Dehradun is under enormous pressure to improve its train infrastructure as part of bettering its connectivity and under such circumstances, it has become all the more important to shift the track outside the key protected area, he added.

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