Railways willing to stop trains in Uttar Pradesh tiger reserve
12 Sep 2008, 1143 hrs IST,IANS
LUCKNOW: Indian Railways are willing to shut down the 200-km railway line passing through Dudhwa National Park, the largest tiger reserve in Uttar Pradesh, where trains have run over at least five tigers in the last eight years.
“If the Uttar Pradesh government so desires, we will not hesitate to shut down the railway line completely,” Lucknow divisional railway manager Ashima Singh said.
The state wildlife department filed a complaint against Ashima Singh and other railway officials for failing to control the speed of trains when they passed through the national park.
What brought matters to a head was the death of a tiger that was run over by a train on Sep 6. “It was a brutal end as the tiger was dragged for at least 700 metres before the train came to a halt,” said Dudhwa National Park director Uma Shankar Singh.
“As many as 23 animals had died after being knocked down by trains in the park area since 2000 and these included five tigers and three elephants,” he added.
The number is significant because India’s tiger population is down to a little over 1,400, according to the latest estimate of the central government.
The Dudhwa national park is a part of the Katarniaghat, Dudhwa, and Kishenpur-Pilibhit forests. The three forests have a total estimated tiger population of 95, the government announced early this year.
Experts have said the Dudhwa-Pilibhit population has high conservation value since it represents the only tiger population with the ecological and behavioural adaptations of the tiger unique to the Terai habitat of the Himalayan foothills.
Attributing the deaths to callousness of the railway officials, Uma Shankar Singh said: “the railways had formally agreed not to run trains faster than 15 km per hour while traversing the 33 km through core area of the precious wildlife reserve; but it was quite apparent that the drivers and other railway staff do not adhere to the speed limit.”
He lamented that no action was taken against the defaulting staff.
While admitting that such a binding was in place, Ashima Singh sought to point out: “The death of the tiger on Sep 6 took place at least 40 km away from the earmarked 33 km stretch area with a speed limit regulation”.
She added: “We would have no hitch in closing down the railway route if the state government wanted it that way; in any case the 200-km long line was not cost-effective at all, we have been running it simply because it has been there for more than a century.”
The track was laid down in the early 20th century essentially to cart timber from the rich forests of terai to other parts of the country.
“But now that cutting of trees has been banned for decades, the tracks are used only for passenger trains which run far below their capacity because of negligible traffic on the route,” Ashima Singh added.
The issue had also been taken up by the previous chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who wrote to Railway Minister Lalu Prasad; but that failed to resolve the deadlock.