Running trains have accidentally killed 62 elephants, incidentally the mascot of the Indian Railways, in five years.
A CAG report revealed that most of these deaths, about 43 during 2006-11, have been reported from the Northeast Frontier Railway Zone that includes the northeast states. The CAG came down heavily on the Indian Railways for violating environmental norms, since many of the fatalities are concentrated in Assam, stretches of which have rail lines across forested areas and known elephant corridors.
While large numbers of wildlife are known to have been killed by trains, figures are available only for large animals like elephants.
The national auditor castigated the Indian Railways for failing to formulate comprehensive environmental guidelines for handling and transportation of bulk pollution intensive commodities like coal, iron ore, cement, fertilisers.
“There is no separate directorate or cell at the Railway Board level to co-ordinate various environmental issues involved in their operations,” the CAG report said.
The railways are the single largest user of both energy and water in the country, consuming about 1.61 billion KWh of electricity during 2010-11 as against the national consumption of 568 billion KWh.
“Thus the policies adopted by it have a substantial impact on the conservation of both water and energy in the country,” the report said. The Indian Railways policies on conservation of forests and wildlife play an important catalytic role in conserving the natural habitat and should act as a trendsetter.
“Indian Railways is yet to finalise the technology...despite two decades of experimentation,” the CAG report added, with respect to its environmental responsibilities.