Elevated rail corridor can save Gir lions : Gujarat High Court

A lawyer told the Gujarat High Court on Thursday that an elevated rail corridor was the best solution to save lions from getting run over by trains passing close to the Gir Wildlife Sanctuary.

Taking into consideration various other suggestions, a bench of justices S R Brahmbhatt and A G Uraizee ordered the formation of a committee to identify the problems and bottlenecks in the way of conservation of lions in the sanctuary.

The bench was suo motu (on its own) hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), which was admitted by the court in March last year, over the issue of high death rate of lions in Gir due to various reasons like train and road accidents, falling into wells and electrocution.

During the Thursday hearing, advocate Anand Yagnik, who does not represent any party in the case but was allowed by the court to share his views on the issue, told the bench that the maximum number of lions were getting killed after being run over by trains.

He said the big cats could be saved from being hit by trains if the railway tracks were laid on an elevated corridor, like the metro tracks or those of the upcoming bullet train project.

Yagnik added that such elevated corridors were built in three major national parks — Jim Corbett (Uttarakhand), Sundarbans (West Bengal) and Kanha (Madhya Pradesh) — to save the wildlife from being run over by trains.

“If elevated rail corridors were constructed in these three national parks, then why not in Gir?,” he asked.

The counsel representing the Indian Railways told the bench that he would convey the suggestion to the Railway Board.

Prior to Yagnik’s submissions, Gujarat’s Assistant Advocate General P K Jani informed the court about the steps taken by the state government to prevent lions from falling into open wells near the forest area.

Jani told the court that since there was no law to compel locals to construct walls around their wells, the authorities could only persuade them or give them incentives to erect such structures.

Taking into consideration these submissions, the bench said a committee was needed to identify all the problems and bottlenecks, which were posing a hindrance in the conservation of lions.

The bench asked all the stakeholders, including the collectors of the three districts over which the sanctuary was spread, the railways, the locals and the forest officials, to form a joint committee for the purpose.

The next hearing in the case will be held on February 27.

According to the 2015 census, there were 523 lions in the Gir forest, the last abode of Asiatic lions.

The Gujarat government had last year claimed that the number had gone over 600.

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