Monday, July 22, 2024

Wildlife Institute of India Advocates Railway Infrastructure for Wildlife Safety

In response to the detrimental impact of railway infrastructure on wildlife, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) in Dehradun is proposing the construction of overpasses and underpasses, measuring seven meters in height and 30 meters in width, at sensitive locations. These dimensions may increase for double or triple parallel railway lines.
WII’s general guidelines for railway mitigation include the implementation of ramps in elephant habitats, level crossings with rubber surfaces to facilitate wildlife movement, and an intrusion-based detection system utilizing distributed acoustic sensing (DAS) in elephant habitats.

A three-day workshop at WII has commenced, focusing on guidelines to minimize the impact of railway infrastructure on elephants and other wildlife. The Indian Railways has identified 105 locations for constructing mitigation structures, with 107 points specifically identified for elephants in various states.

To safeguard tigers, 17 sensitive stretches across railway lines intersecting tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have been identified for mitigation measures. These include stretches like Katni-Singrauli, Betul-Itarsi, Betul-Chhindwara, and others.
According to WII scientists, approximately 200 elephants and over two dozen tigers have lost their lives to trains in India between 2010 and 2021. A collaborative effort involving the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), forest departments, and the railways is underway to address this issue.

The workshop, convened by the Project Elephant Division of MoEFCC and Elephant Cell at WII, aims to bring together diverse individuals dedicated to finding sustainable solutions to wildlife casualties on railway tracks. WII Director Virendra Tiwari emphasized the workshop as a platform to bridge the gap between progress and preservation, underlining the responsibility to ensure the coexistence of infrastructure with the diverse fauna.

Bilal Habib, a WII scientist, emphasized the importance of enhancing knowledge about elephant behavior and migration patterns, stating that strategies can be tailored to mitigate the risks railways pose to them. Integrating global best practices, technology, early warning systems, animal corridors, and habitat preservation initiatives are vital components of minimizing wildlife casualties.

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