Forest dept plans rail barriers to keep jumbos at bay

State sanctions Rs 50 crore for project; Railways urged to reduce costs

Forest dept plans rail barriers to keep jumbos at bay

The Forest department has written to the State government and the Railway ministry, seeking reduction in the cost of rails needed for erecting barriers in areas where man-elephant conflict is high.

A team of officials will visit New Delhi in the second week of October to meet Railway Minister D V Sadananda Gowda to urge him to intervene and reduce the cost of rails which the State government intends to purchase from the Railways.

In August 2014, a team of Forest department officials along with Forests and Ecology Minister B Ramanath Rai had visited Kenya and South Africa to study the models to mitigate man-elephant conflict.

A couple of years ago, the Forest department, along with experts from the Indian Institute of Science, had erected rails discarded by the Railways in some patches of Bandipur Tiger Reserve on a pilot basis.

In view of this successful experiment and the study of the African model where rails were used for creating barriers, the minister, in September 2014, had announced that rails would be used to construct barriers to keep elephants at bay, apart from the traditional methods of digging elephant-proof trenches and chilli rope.

Accordingly, the Forest department chalked out a Rs 212-crore for the project to erect barricades using rails. They identified areas along the borders of Bannerghatta National Park, connecting River Cauvery, Bandipur and Nagarahole Tiger Reserves and a few areas around the BRT wildlife sanctuary.

But, the State government sanctioned only Rs 50 crore for the project. The officials contacted the South Western Railway (SWR) officials in this regard.

A senior SWR official said the tracks were sold at scrap rates of Rs 42 per kilogram. The rates fluctuate depending on the market prices and scrap is normally e-auctioned.

The official maintained that though it was the first time that a government department was keen on purchasing rails from the Railways, reduction in price would be decided by the board and the ministry.

“Out of the sanctioned Rs 50 crore, around 70 per cent will be spent on purchasing rails and the rest will be used for digging work, transportation and erection of rails, manpower and so on. Thus, around Rs 75 lakh to Rs 80 lakh will be spent for erecting a kilometre of barriers. With the sanctioned amount, only 60 km to 70 km can be covered.”

“We are requesting the government and the minister to intervene and help us get the rails at subsidised rates. Discussions are also on with SWR officials to reduce the costs of the rails,” Vinay Luthra, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife) told Deccan Herald.

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