PALAKKAD: Taking cognizance of recurring incidents of wild elephant deaths due to train collisions in the Kanjikode -Ettimadai belt, Forest Secretary P Mara Pandiyan has called a meeting of forest officials on Tuesday at the Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram. Divisional Forest Officer K Karthikeyan told ‘Express’ that the Forest Department is planning to set up a permanent rail fencing over a 6-km stretch from Kanjikode to Walayar.
The government has sanctioned a sum of `8 crore for the purpose. While the proposal has received the administrative nod, technical sanction is pending, he said.
The Forest Department has drawn up the design and estimate for the fencing project. Sources privy to the developments said that while rails for fencing will be supplied at `44,000 per tonne to the Forest Department, it will provided at a revised rate of `24,000 per tonne to the Railways. The meeting is expected to chalk out a blueprint for the project and hasten allocation of necessary funds for the same.
The death line: In the last five years, more than 11 wild elephants have been killed on the Kanjikode-Madukkarai belt on the Palakkad-Coimbatore route. While six were tuskers, five were females. A 25-year-old tusker was killed on Sunday morning. The B-line on the route passes through the Walayar forests. It is on this stretch that the casualties are the maximum. Five wild elephants were killed in the last six months alone.
“A herd of around six wild elephants frequent the nearby forests and if the Forest and the Railways departments continue their callous attitude, all of them will be wiped out within a year,” said the South India coordinator of the Wild Life Protection Society of India.
The problem is that the train on a 15-km stretch on this route in the B-line passes through the forest area consisting of a deep curve and steep embankments. The loco pilots are unable to see the foraying elephants due to the blind spots on the route. Therefore, the only solution is to put a speed limit on the stretch.
Meanwhile, the wild elephants fail to see the approaching train due to the steep embankments and are wedged in between.
DFO Karthikeyan said that though solar fencing was erected on the kanjikode-Walayar stretch, the wild elephants have breached it to cross over to the other side. The lush paddy fields, which are ready for harvest, lure these elephants into human habitations.Though chilli powder was sprayed on the solar fences, it seldom acted as a effective deterrent.
The Forest Department had played recorded sounds of growling tigers to ward off invading wild elephants, but in vain.
An elephant lover on condition of anonymity said the only solution was to shift the B-line from the forest area as the Railways did not have the resources to build a permanent wall in the area.