250 kms of Railway lines pose threat to Tigers: NTCA

NEW DELHI: Nearly 250kms of railway lines, spread across different regions, have been been identified to be posing a high degree of threat to tigers and other wildlife in the country, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) informed the railway ministry last month. In addition to this, 86 km of railway lines are also posing a threat to tiger corridors that connect and sustain tiger population between two or more national parks, the NTCA stressed.

NTCA’s meeting with the Railway Ministry comes in the backdrop of steady instances of tiger and wildlife fatalities on railway tracks. Besides tigers, elephants, leopards, bears and even crocodiles get killed on railway tracks.

Most tiger deaths on railway tracks were largely concentrated in Madhya Pradesh, where at least four tigers have been run over by trains till now since December 2016. In fact, two of them were killed in the same section between Budhni and Mid-Ghat area of Sehore district, passing through the Ratapani sanctuary near Bhopal, that is soon slated to be a tiger reserve. A 12 km section of the Itarsi-Betul railway passes through the sanctuary.

In Madhya Pradesh, 34 km long section of the Katni-Singrauli line passes through the Sanjay Dubri national park, which is also sensitive for wildlife. Besides Madhya Pradesh, the NTCA informed railway officials that the 29 km line inside Rajaji National Park, 47 km line inside Dudhwa national park; 12.5 km line cutting through Buxa tiger reserve in Bengal and 27 km line passing through Bhadra tiger reserve in Karnataka are some of the most sensitive routes for wildlife.

Even as the NTCA briefed the railway officials about the threats to wildlife, the environment ministry recently cleared the conversion of the 176 km Akola-Khandwa railway line from metre gauge to broad gauge, of which 18 km passes through the heart of Melghat tiger reserve. The NTCA had opposed the route passing through the core of Melghat and suggested that an alternate route be taken, but the National Board for Wildlife under former environment minister late Anil Dave, cleared it.

“The tiger corridors are getting fragmented by the day, especially because of linear infrastructure such as railway tracks, highways and power lines. If we cannot avoid the projects, we have to take measures to ensure their safe passage,” said an NTCA official on the condition of anonymity.

DNA had reported last month that railway minister Suresh Prabhu had called a meeting of top officials from environment ministry in April and sought identification of such spots to prevent wildlife deaths on railway tracks.

Subsequently, the environment ministry had shot off a letter to all state forest departments, seeking their co-operation in identifying the most vulnerable spots on railway tracks for wildlife.