Wednesday, June 11, 2014

To ensure lions' safety, Railways comes up with new plan

To ensure lions' safety, Railways comes up with new plan

Reduction of train speed in areas prone to lion movement are among the necessary precautions that the Western Railway authorities have assured the forest department following the death of felines on tracks leading to the Pipavav port in Gujarat.

Last week, the Western Railway authorities had held a hurriedly-called meeting after six lions were either mowed down or fatally hit by trains in last three months in Amreli district, just about 35 km from the Gir forest. Chief Conservator of Forest R. L. Meena said that besides reduction of speed, the Railway authorities have accepted the suggestion of not running goods trains in morning and evening hours.

The Railway officials accepted another important suggestion that train drivers would be given training to sensitise them on importance of conservation of lions as well as how they could keep vigil on lion movement. The forest department will bear expenditure of 30 km-long barbed wire fencing on railway tracks where frequent lion movements have been observed. "The railway has also shown preparedness to construct under passage to allow free movement of wild animals including lions," Meena added.

"All these indeed are measures that should be appreciated but this is largely patchwork, given the complex nature of the issue that needs a larger and holistic policy view," retired forest official A.K. Sharma said. Sharma says the lion population has increased but so has its territory expanded to 20,000 square km during last five years from 10,000 square km. The lions are straying out because the Gir Protected Area is too small to accommodate all of them. Five state highways and a railway line traverse through the forest, besides nearly three lakh tourists visiting every year. Widespread mining takes place not far from the sanctuary, and there is a cement factory just about 15 km away from the forest area.

"All these activities adversely affect forest resources and use water, which is key to survival for the lions. The carnivore has to stray out to look for water and prey since waterholes within the sanctuary are drying up," a senior forest official said. According to a forest department survey, the predator was found in as much as one-third of the Saurashtra region. Lions were spotted in 1,500 villages in the region's Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts.

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