Forest dept treads cautiously over railway proposals

The Karnataka Forest department is treading cautiously over the proposals of South Western Railways for more rail lines along the Western Ghats. Considering that the additional lines passing through protected
areas could jeopardise the lives of several endangered fauna, the forest department is in anticipation of a detailed action plan by the railways to mitigate damage to wildlife. 

Even though the wildlife death toll along the railway tracks in Karnataka has reduced since 2017, the forest department has refused to compromise and remained stern about the safety of fauna in state forests.

While a total of 32,000 animals were killed along railway tracks in India between 2016 and 2018, Karnataka witnessed about 71 wildlife deaths from 2018 to June 2019. The bulk of the casualties included wild boars, elephants, gaurs and leopards.

Sanjai Mohan, Chief Wildlife Warden, said that Karnataka, compared to other states the extent of rail lines passing through the protected areas is less. “In Karnataka wildlife deaths are due to various other reasons, but in the case of deaths by train, the toll is minimal,” he said.

However, with the railways having requested laying of additional tracks in the Western Ghats, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (HoFF) Punati Sridhar said that the department is awaiting a report on mitigation measures to be taken up by railways to avoid wildlife deaths.

“We have not yet cleared the proposals of the railways. We want to know what mitigation measures have they taken to safeguard the wildlife,” he said. He added that some of the measures which can be taken are to elevate railway lines where animal crossings traditionally take place.

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