State tells SC no elephant death in train mishap

Karnataka has claimed before the Supreme Court that not a single elephant death occurred in the state due to collision with trains. The state has the largest  population of the pachyderm.

In an affidavit, it submitted that the state has been the “forerunner” in elephant conservation and management programme which helped it to raise their number to 6,200 in 2010, about 20 per cent of the elephant population in the country.

 “No death of elephant due to rail accident has been reported in Karnataka. It is relevant to state here that rail related elephant deaths are primarily occurring in the north-eastern states,” it said.
The state, on the contrary, raised the issue of human-animal conflict at regular intervals due to straying of the elephants into human habitats in search of food and water.

The response was given in view of the apex court’s notice in a PIL filed by journalist Shakti Nayak seeking directions to take measures to prevent elephant injury and deaths due to them straying onto the railway lines. 

Enumerating measures taken to protect elephants, the state government said: “The respondent has constituted an Elephant Task Force which is first of its kind in the country.

 The task force has drafted and compiled in detail every aspect concerning elephants in the state.” 

Two committees set up in December 2008 by the state government suggested some measures for reviewing elephant deaths and enhancing their conservation, it said.

“It is submitted that action has been to minimise human-animal conflict by erecting elephant proof trenches, solar fences and in the most vulnerable area, a combination of both. Action has been taken to maintain anti-depredation camps to drive back elephants raiding crop lands.

 Compensation is being paid to the farmers when crops are destroyed and ex gratia in case of deaths/injuries,” it said.

The state further claimed that under the centrally-sponsored scheme of Project Elephant, the state government spent as much as Rs 1,133.62 lakh in erecting barriers and Rs 241.03 lakh for anti-depredation squad in the last five years.

Measures taken

The government said that it has conceptualised measures and is making all efforts to maintain migratory paths in order to provide free movement to the elephants. The petitioner’s assertion that all elephants migrated only in pre-determined paths and resisted any attempt to create obstruction was not entirely correct, the state government said. 

Since it was also true that sub-adults had the tendency to breakaway from the group with an intent to raise a new family, which resulted into their wandering into human habitation, causing heavy devastation.

Last month, the Supreme Court directed the Railways to ensure that the speed limit of trains was lowered and goods trains were stopped at night while passing through elephant corridors in order to protect the pachyderms.
The petitioner had claimed that  77 pachyderms had died across the country since 2007 after being hit by speeding trains.

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