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MoEFCC on elephants killed on railway tracks

Context:

A total of 186 elephants were killed after being hit by trains across India between 2009-10 and 2020-21, according to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

Relevance:

GS-III: Environment and Ecology (Conservation of Biodiversity, Initiatives and Steps for Conservation of species, Man-Animal Conflict)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Human-Elephant Conflicts
  2. MoEFCC on Elephant deaths due to train hits
  3. Steps taken by the MoEFCC for saving Elephants from Trains
  4. Possible Solution: Eco Bridges
  5. What is Project Elephant?

Human-Elephant Conflicts

  • Elephant-human conflict is a result of habitat loss and fragmentation.
  • When elephants and humans interact, there is conflict from crop raiding, injuries and deaths to humans caused by elephants, and elephants being killed by humans for reasons other than ivory and habitat degradation.
  • Such encounters foster resentment against the elephants amongst the human population and this can result in elephants being viewed as a nuisance and killed.
  • In addition to the direct conflicts between humans and elephants, elephants also suffer indirect costs like degradation of habitat and loss of food plants.

MoEFCC on Elephant deaths due to train hits

  • As per the data furnished by the Project Elephant Division of the Ministry, Assam accounted for the highest number of elephant casualties on railway tracks (62), followed by West Bengal (57), and Odisha (27).
  • According to the Ministry, a Permanent Coordination Committee has been constituted between the Ministry of Railways (Railway Board) and the MoEFCC for preventing elephant deaths in train accidents.

Steps taken by the MoEFCC for saving Elephants from Trains

  1. The formation of coordination committees of officers of Indian Railways and State Forest Departments;
  2. Clearing of vegetation along railway tracks to enable clear view for loco pilots;
  3. Signage boards at suitable points to alert loco pilots about elephant presence;
  4. Moderating slopes of elevated sections of railway tracks;
  5. Underpass/overpass for safe passage of elephants;
  6. Regulation of train speed from sunset to sunrise in vulnerable stretches;
  7. Regular patrolling of vulnerable stretches of railway tracks by frontline staff of the Forest Department and wildlife watchers.

Possible Solution: Eco Bridges

  • Eco Bridges are wildlife corridors also known as wildlife crossing that are a link of wildlife habitat which connects two larger areas of similar wildlife habitat.
  • Eco Bridges aims at enhancing wildlife connectivity. It connects wildlife populations that would otherwise be separated by human activities or structures such as roads and highways, other infrastructure development, or logging and farming, etc.
  • These are made up of native vegetation i.e., it is overlaid with planting from the area to give a contiguous look with the landscape.
  • Eco-bridges include underpass tunnels, viaducts, and overpasses (mainly for large or herd-type animals); amphibian tunnels; fish ladders; Canopy bridge (especially for monkeys and squirrels), tunnels and culverts (for small mammals such as otters, hedgehogs, and badgers); green roofs (for butterflies and birds).
  • The two main aspects considered in building the eco bridges are size and location. These bridges should be built based on the animals’ movement pattern.

Why eco-bridges matter?

  • They enhance wildlife connectivity that can be disrupted because of highways or logging.
  • Many road projects cut across animal corridors. For example, National Highway 37 through the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape in Assam, and State Highway 33 through the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve in Karnataka.

What is Project Elephant?

  • Project Elephant is a Central Government sponsored scheme launched in February 1992.
  • Through the Project Elephant scheme, the government helps in the protection and management of elephants to the states having wild elephants in a free-ranging population. 
  • It ensures the protection of elephant corridors and elephant habitat for the survival of the elephant population in the wild.
  • This elephant conservation strategy is mainly implemented in 16 of 28 states or union territories in the country which includes Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Maharashtra, Nagaland, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.
  • The union government provides technical and financial help to these states to carry out and achieve the goals of project elephant. Not just that, assistance for the purpose of the census, training of field officials is also provided to ensure the mitigation and prevention of man-elephant conflict.

-Source: The Hindu

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October 2022
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