While admitting a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) over elephants’ death on railway tracks, the Gauhati High Court on Tuesday issued notices to Assam forest department, the Union ministry of forest and environment and the Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR).
The PIL was filed by two wildlife photographers from Guwahati–Jugal Bharali and Rasel Hussain.
In the PIL, they appealed to the court to direct all the three to have a detailed time-bound working plan for the protection of elephants from being hit by trains in the state.
The court has asked two government departments as well as NF Railway to reply to the questions raised in the PIL and present a working plan before the court within four weeks.
They said at least 35 elephants were killed by speeding trains in Assam between 1990 and 2006 and a similar number had died in the past two months.
“Elephants are accorded the highest degree of protection and are listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Elephants were also declared as the national heritage animal by the ministry of environment and forests but the plight of elephants along its traditional elephant corridors, which have now been converted to railway tracks in Assam, is of great concern,” the petition said.
They cited the mowing down of five elephants by the Guwahati-Silchar passenger train on February 10 this year in Hojai district and another five by Guwahati-Naharlagun Inter-City Express in December last year in Sonitpur district as examples.
The PIL suggested construction of under-passes and over-passes across critical elephant corridors, use of drones and early warning systems, reduction of train speed in vulnerable stretches, deputation of sufficient number of security personnel around critical elephant corridors and others.
The court admitted the PIL on Wednesday and issued notices to the state forest department, Union ministry of environment and forest and the NFR to reply to the questions raised in the PIL.