Patna: Patna High Court has ordered East Central Railway (ECR) to build structures on the train track that passes through the Valmiki Tiger reserve, so that wild animals can cross over without being mowed down by trains.
The single bench of Justice Ajay Kumar Tripathi passed the order on December 6.
Around 6km of the Bagaha-Chittauni line passes through the Madanpur range of the tiger reserve. More than a dozen passenger and goods trains pass through it every day, said Valmiki Tiger Reserve sources.
According to official data 57 animals, including two rhinos, died after being hit by trains between 2006 and 2015.
“The settled principle of law that the polluter pays has not undergone any change over the years. In fact, such a principle has been reiterated and strengthened in many a judgments of the Honourable Apex Court while dealing with the issues relating to environment and pollution,” the court order said.
The judgment mentions about a meeting held under the chairmanship of the Union cabinet secretary on October 6, 2016, in which the secretary of the Union environment ministry and railways officials had taken part. The respondents had an obligation and duty to put a mechanism in place where the wildlife of the Valmiki tiger reserve were not endangered any further, according to the minutes of the meeting.
“It is strange that the counsel for the railways specially representing the railway authorities of ECR are now taking up a defence or putting up a resistance they do not have resources which have been estimated to about Rs 29 crore to protect the species when they are the violators and they are the polluters,” reads the judgment. “…The court reiterates that the railways has no escape so far as the obligation to put in place a foolproof mechanism to protect the protected species is concerned since they are the cause.”
D.K. Shukla, the state’s principal chief conservator of forest, called it a landmark judgment. “One hopes that now agencies executing projects would understand the importance of wildlife protection,” Shukla said. “We have lost many animals due to this track and underpasses would be a big relief.”
Samir Kumar Sinha, member of the National Tiger Conservation Authority advisory group on the issue, said: “The railway line has caused great damage to Valmiki in terms of drastic habitat change due to blockage of drainage, fragmentation of habitat and death of several animals.”
Date:13 Dec 2017
The track divides the forest and animals have to cross the tracks to move from one part to another.