Wildlife experts allege that train and road accidents are the second highest cause of wildlife death after poaching
Recently a Vande Bharat train traveling from Mumbai (Maharashtra) to Gandhinagar (Gujarat) collided with a cattle near Atul station (Gujarat).
However, the machines face zero net injury as it gets repaired immediately, and mainly these Vande Bharat trains are designed to minimize the cost of the damage due to such accidents.
Specifically the replaceable nose cone in the front portion made of fiber-reinforced plastic mitigates the collision impact saving the cost up to ₹10,000 – 15,000 per piece and they are replaceable within an hour.
But this doesn’t help the victimized animal in any way!
Train – Animal conflict in India
The Vande Bharat trains have met nearly 200 cattle accidents in the first nine days of October itself. And on the larger picture, the number of trains – cattle accidents stood at 4433 in 2022 alone.
The Vande Bharat trains operate nearly 3 times faster (150 Kmph) than ordinary trains, increasing the chances of such disasters.
The Anti-animal Railway zones of India
The Railway zones of North India account for the highest number of cattle and wildlife run-over cases, the density of the forest is directly proportional to the number of such lethal accidents.
Thus it can be witnessed that the Northeastern, North Central, and East central railway zones traversing through thick forests hold the apex position in animal accidents.
As per the data of Press Trust of India, the North Central Railway zone stands as the Worst affected railway zones in India, accounting for more than 6,500 of the 26,000 cases of CROs (cattle runover) in 2020-21.
Measures and limitations
India has only one cave-like wildlife underpass which connects two famous wildlife parks, Kanha and Pench this is proving vital for the long-term viability of tiger populations in the central Indian landscape.
The Palakkad division of Southern Railway is an excellent illustration to mitigate animal accidents, they have taken several moderating initiatives as mentioned:-
- Clearing the vegetation regularly along the railway tracks to make it easy for the loco pilots to sight animals on the track.
- Extending the vegetation-free region on either side of the tracks at vulnerable locations to facilitate sufficient space for animals to move and avert on the sight of the train.
- Wildlife ramps (i.e animal skywalk) were constructed over the railway tracks at certain locations in Walayar – Ettimadai section in Tamil Nadu.
- Solar fencing (at ground level) with a low electric voltage of 12V to deter animals from invading the track.
- Solar-powered lights are installed at vulnerable locations to improve visibility for loco pilots at night.
- In addition to this, the elephant trackers are deployed by Kerala and Tamil Nadu forest departments to patrol the tracks and alert the traversing train over any wildlife activists on the track.
These measures have drastically reduced many accidents of an elephant during 2020-21, recorded to have saved nearly 24 elephants crossing the tracks.
But the Railways of other sectors have taken a bleak attempt in this regard wherein the work is yet in preliminary stages.
The plan is to completely fence off the accident-prone areas that are located, as per the latest update, around 40% of the work has been completed.
However, the officials also mentioned that it becomes impossible to cover longer stretches owing to residential areas and farms.
What Other Countries Have Done
1. Use of reflectors:-
Several European countries such as Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, etc., Installed reflectors on busy highways and roads, which reflect the light from vehicles to warn animals of incoming traffic.
2. Use of animal deterring acoustic signals:-
In Poland, the country’s national railway network, as early as 2004, developed a device emitting acoustic signals which frighten the animals, and deters them from approaching roads or railway tracks.
3. Wildlife Corridors:-
In South Africa, the government has built special corridors for wild animals to pass from one habitat to another. There is also a system to alert the rail and road traffic whenever a herd of animals is passing through.
How can the common people contribute
- Railway staff and passengers need to maintain the track free from any food waste which may attract wild animals.
- Erecting watch towers at vulnerable spots where patrolling is non-favoring.
- Animals mainly migrate in search of food and water, especially during summer, thus constructing ponds and developing fodder resources near their habitat shall comply.
- The illegal encroachment of the wastelands by real estate, farmhouses, mystic centers, resorts, and educational institutions is forcing the elephants to move toward railway lines. This needs to be cleared.
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