BENGALURU: Two railway lines in Karnataka turn killers of wildlife even as the South-Western railways shut their eyes and ears, failing to take any mitigation measures. Three more gaurs succumb to speeding trains on Miraj-Londa rail line in the last few weeks.
Despite the state forest department's umpteen requests to the railway authorities to curb the speed of trains when passing through wildlife zones and take up mitigation measures as per Supreme Court orders, the south-western railways have remained silent.
In the last six years, 15 gaurs, two elephants, a sloth bear and many other herbivores, reptiles including snakes and small mammals have been mowed down by speeding trains on these lines which connects Dharwar to Goa and Belgavi via Londa.
Recently, two gaurs were mowed down on the Miraj-Londa railway line at Haruri in Khanapur Range of Belagavi division, adding to the list of increasing number of wildlife deaths in the Range. In February, one more Gaur died in the same area. This rail link has become a 'death spot' for big herbivores like elephants and gaurs as well as small mammals and reptiles.
Despite the Miraj-Londa and Hospet-Tinnaighat passing through forest areas and elephant corridors with a lot of wildlife movement, the south-western railways till date have not initiated any mitigation measures. In fact, forest officials add that measures like reduction in speed of trains in forest areas, setting up ramps, barricades, hiring track watchers, sending information on movement of herds crossing tracks, etc are some measures that need to be implemented immediately. Four areas — Khanapur, Londa, Golihalli and Nagargali — witness maximum movement of elephant and gaur herds across the tracks and thus, need special measures to save them, they added.
Wildlife activist Giridhar Kulkarni stresses, "Unlike North-Eastern and Northern Railways, the South Western Railways has failed to take any mitigation measures on the two railway lines and instead sent proposal to double the Hospet-Tinnaighat line which has already seen the death of two elephants. The central government should not approve the doubling proposal as these lines pass through dense forests with rich wildlife. Imagine the plight of wildlife when Hubballi-Ankola railway line comes up. In fact, it will be the death knell for big carnivores, herbivores as well as reptiles and other species."
Meanwhile, railway sources in Hubballi said, "We have received a letter from PCCF's office in February this year where they have asked for construction of rail/road underpass and a railway barricade of two kilometres for elephants to pass in Londa section. We are yet to identify and forward this letter to the section dealing with such issues. However, funds are needed for such works which has to be sanctioned by the Railway Board."
On his part, PCCF and Head of Forest Force Punati Sridhar said, "It is a very serious matter as elephants and gaurs have died in the Londa section. If they do not respond to our communication, we will initiate a meeting between the two departments so that measures are implemented as soon as possible."