BHOPAL: Strong objections are being raised against the expansion of Katni-Singrauli railway line through Sanjay-Dubri Tiger Reserve (SDTR) in Madhya Pradesh citing it as disastrous for tigers, elephants and other endangered wildlife species. Existing railway line has already killed a tigress and several wild animals, say conservationists who have sent an SOS appeal to the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to protect SDTR by realigning the railway line so as to bypass this important tiger reserve and ensure the ecological and conservation integrity of this landscape. Government of India with... more...
copies to the Minister of Railways and other senior officials of the MoEFCC and Madhya Pradesh Forest Department. The 27.5 km stretch of existing railway line connecting Katni to Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh passes through the 67ha area of ‘critical tiger habitat’ of SDTR and the 5.3 ha of dense forest areas of Sidhi district adjoining the protected area. As per the letter, the railway line already passes through the identified wildlife corridor in Shahdol district, between Bandhavgarh and Sanjay-Dubri tiger reserves, that has high presence of tiger, leopard, striped hyena, sloth bear, Asiatic wild cat, jungle cat, sambar, spotted deer, and many other species of mammals.
SDTR is spread over an area of 1674.511 sq km. This includes the Sanjay National Park and Dubri Wildlife Sanctuary as the core or critical tiger habitat (812.581 sq.km.) and the forested areas of Sidhi and Shahdol districts as the buffer zone (861.930 sq.km). It is connected through forest corridors in Shahdol with Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve to the west and borders the Guru Ghasidas National Park in Chhattisgarh to the south. Bandhavgarh-SDTR-Guru Ghasidas landscape together constitutes 3,607 sq km and harbours around 141 tigers. This landscape is also connected with Palamau Tiger Reserve in Jharkhand and has the potential to accommodate the increasing tiger population of Central India. Scientific investigation has established that the tigers from Central India have high genetic diversity which is mainly due to the functionality of the existing wildlife corridors. National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) also have highlighted the importance of this landscape in the ‘All India Tiger Estimation 2018’ report, says the letter. Also, this is the only area to the north of River Narmada where gaur, India’s largest bovine, occurs. There are 38 documented deaths (and many unrecorded) of wild animals along this route during 2010-2020, experts say. “Between January to December 2020, the presence of tigers and leopards have been recorded 315 times in Dubri and Bastua ranges of SDTR. The presence of tigers and elephants have been documented on both sides of the existing track in the corridor indicating crossing over of the tracks by India’s National Animal and National Heritage Animal, respectively” letter reads. “Therefore, the plan to double and electrify this existing railway line will result in an increase in speed and frequency of the trains and is likely to prove even more detrimental for the wild animals of this landscape. This will also require the cutting of 14,187 trees along this stretch and can cause permanent barriers for the wild animals” it says. Conversationalists say that the proposed expansion (doubling and electrification) of this railway line would not only split the SDTR landscape but disconnect all the above-mentioned conservation areas from each other, and may slaughter wild animals thus an impediment for the long-term conservation of tiger, elephant and many other species. They have suggested that the ministry to bypass this important tiger reserve and ensure the ecological and conservation integrity of this landscape. The existing Katni-Singrauli railway has already caused many wildlife mortalities and is becoming a serious conservation issue. The conservationists who have signed this letter have expressed dismay about the proposed expansion (doubling) and electrification of this line through a critical tiger habitat. The letter states, “In our assessment this proposed expansion (doubling) and electrification of the present line would bisect a Tiger Reserve and a crucial forest corridor which will be highly detrimental to tiger conservation efforts, and hence must be prevented. We request you to kindly take up this conservation issue with the Indian Railways and request them to realign the route so that the upgradation can occur outside of SDTR (core and buffer) and so avoid damaging this precious landscape." The letter has been signed by leading organisations such as Bombay Natural History Society, Satpuda Foundation, The Corbett Foundation, Conservation Action Trust, Sanctuary Nature Foundation, Tiger Research and Conservation Trust, BAAVAN and Nature Conservation Society Amravati and renowned wildlife conservationists such as Dr M K Ranjitsinh, Dr A J T Johnsingh, Dr Raghu Chundawat, Dr Asad Rahmani, Dr Divyabhanusinh Chavda, Nirmal Ghosh and Dr Naveen Pandey
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