The principal NGT bench at New Delhi, on taking cognisance of a media report in this regard and the proposal of Southern Railways lying limbo owing to non-sanction of funds by the Environment Ministry said “A joint meeting needs to be held by the Central Monitoring Committee of the MoEF&CC with Tamil Nadu and Kerala and the Southern Railways within a month to work out the necessary modalities, including the authority which is to incur the necessary expenditure for building under passes across the railway track to allow elephants to escape.”
The direction from the bench in this regard was based on the submission by Railways that following a meeting in 2010, steps were to be taken for construction of under bridges, fencing and widening cuttings and side drains. But, the failure of MoEF&CC to abide by the arrangement of bearing the cost of work while the Railways will execute the same on deposit terms had failed to transpire.
The works which was decided to be undertaken in Tamil Nadu included rail fencing between Madukarai and Walayar stations (A & B Lines), under bridge on B line between Ettimadai and Wayalor Stations at two places at a total cost of Rs.29.40 Crores. Similarly, in Kerala, a detailed estimate worth Rs.12.11 Crore for provision of fencing for 20 Kms was sent to the Chief Conservator of Forest, Kerala, as a permanent mitigation measure. But, despite many reminders the centage charges are yet to be remitted by Forest department.
As per the media report, in all, seven elephants have been killed between 10:00 pm to 06:00 am on being hit by the trains on ‘B’ line and one elephant was killed on ‘A’ line, which runs through reserve forest for 17 km between Chullimada-Madukkarai stations and ‘B’ line passes through reserve forest for 23 km between Madukkarai- Kanjikode stations.
The bench also recorded the submission made by Tamil Nadu Government that most elephant deaths were caused by trains owing to the poor visibility on the track and the topography being unsuitable for the elephants to escape. Based on this, remedial action has been taken by construction of ramps and deputing track watchers to alert the pilots. Moreover, a percolation pond has been formed for providing water for the animals to minimise the movement, the status report filed by TN said.