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Fence in Valmiki tiger reserve to prevent wildlife deaths in train hits

The railways move to raise a fence alongside a six kilometre stretch of tracks, passing through Bihar’s only tiger reserve, comes after a tigress and a female rhino died from train hits

india Updated: Mar 25, 2017 18:11 IST
Avinash Kumar
Avinash Kumar
Hindustan Times, Patna
Valmiki tiger reserve,Train hits,Fencing
Fencing of a stretch of the railway track in VTR is on the anvil after a train-hit tigress died in September 2015. (HT file photo)

Taking cognizance of recurring incidence of wildlife deaths owing to hits by trains passing through the Valmikinagar tiger reserve (VTR), the railways authorities are planning to raise a permanent fence alongside a six kilometre stretch of the railway track, from Valmikinagar to Paniahwa railway stations.

This was confirmed by A K Pandey, additional divisional railway manager (ADRM) of the Samastipur railway division, under whose jurisdiction the VTR area falls.

A tigress was found dead near Bagaha-Chitauni railway track under Samastipur rail division of East Central Railway (ECR) on September 10, 2015. Forest officials claimed it died after being hit by a train under Madanpur range of division-II of VTR, in north Bihar’s West Champran district, around 290 km northwest of Patna.

Earlier, in March 2013, the only female rhino of VTR was run over by a goods train between Valmikinagar Road and Paniahwa stations, an incident that was described as a severe setback for raising the stock of the protected species.

Sources said six kilometre stretch of this section of the railway track passes through Madanpur range, which falls in the western part of the VTR. The section was made operational in 1992 and more than a dozen passenger and goods trains pass through it everyday.

The fencing is expected to prevent animals inhabiting the reserve - including tigers, elephants and rhinoceros, from stepping on to the railway track and getting hit by the trains passing through this heavily forested area of the reserve, which had steep curves.

“Even the loco pilots are unable to see the foraying elephants and tigers owing to blind spots on the route. Therefore, fencing and limiting speed of trains on this stretch are the only solutions”, said a railways official. “Tiger and rhinos often get active when it’s still dark. By the time loco pilots spot them, it’s too late”, he added.

The fencing issued came up for discussion during a meeting chaired recently by ECR general manager (GM) DK Gayen and a detailed plan for the purpose was called for.

According to ADRM Pandey, in order to enable animals to go from one side of the railway track to the other, two 50-feet wide iron girder bridges had been planned. Earlier, two underpasses had been proposed but the central water commission rejected the idea lest Gandak river, flowing close by, makes its way to the underpasses.

ECR chief spokesperson Arvind Kumar Razak told HT as another precautionary measure, the speed of passing trains had been limited to 60-km per hour on the Valmikinagar to Paniahwa stretch during day time and 35 kmph at night. On another stretch, the train speed limit was 40 km per hour during day and 25 km during night time.

Bettiah divisional forest officer Amit Kumar said even the Patna high court had directed the Railways to fence the vulnerable six-km VTR stretch. “However, since the enforcement of speed limit, wildlife casualties in train mishaps have decreased considerably,” he added.

First Published: Mar 25, 2017 18:11 IST