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Jayanthi pushes for five-point plan to cut train hits

                                                                                                The Pioneer, New Delhi, 20th April, 2013

Close on heels of recent train hit incident of two tiger cubs in Maharashtra, Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan convened a meeting with railway officials, stressing on five point strategy to minimise such incidents.

She has focused on facilitating e-surveillance of tiger movement using thermal cameras installed at sensitive points besides reiterating on restriction the speed limit of trains among others. Similar meeting had taken place in January after nine jumbo were mowed down by speeding trains in Odisha and West-Bengal.

According to sources in the Environment Ministry, the meeting decided on identification of sensitive habitats in the Gondia-Chandrapur sector, where the incident occurred early this week. While one cub died on the spot, the other was seriously injured.

The meet pointed to the importance of railway route that passes through the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR).

The members also stressed on coordination between forest department and local railway officials. The meeting decided to put in place a system for sharing tiger spatial use data in advance between the Field Director and Railways through VHF wireless on a daily basis.

The meeting once again emphasised on restricting speed limit of trains to 40 km per hour in Gondia-Chandrapur sector. Especially after identification of vulnerable patches of wildlife habitats and erection of signage at these spots there must be strict guidelines of slowing down the speed of the train, while passing through such vulnerable stretches.

The meeting called for facilitating round the clock e-surveillance of tiger movement using intelligent thermal cameras at sensitive points. Tiger/wildlife sensitisation workshops would also be organised by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for Railway personnel.

The wildlife experts have welcomed the initiatives of Environment Minister. They pointed out that with a flurry of linear projects as railway lines, roads, highways, transmission lines and irrigation canals through crucial wildlife corridors the Government must allocate funds for implementing mitigation measures to address such deaths. The issue was even raised by certain members of National Board for Wildlife during the September 5, 2012 meeting. However, nothing has happened so far, they regretted.