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Won't Tolerate That You Are Killing Lions Every Day: Guj HC Tells Railways

Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal observed that many lions have been killed as they are run over by trains in Gujarat due to the apathy of Railways and that the number of such occurrences should be brought down to zero.

Gujarat HC tells Railways to curb incidents of Asiatic lions being run over by trains
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The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday said the railway authority and the forest department should work out a standard operating procedure to curb incidents of Asiatic lions being run over by trains, stating it won't tolerate everyday killing of big cats due to apathy of Railways.

Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal observed that many lions have been killed as they are run over by trains in Gujarat due to the apathy of Railways and that the number of such occurrences should be brought down to zero.

"We are not going to tolerate that you are killing them every day," CJ Agarwal told the lawyer representing the Indian Railway. The HC has taken suo motu cognisance of the death of lions on railway tracks.

Expressing displeasure over the reply by the Railway on two lions being run over by a train in January this year, the HC said the railway authority and forest officials will have to "act in coordination and be in sync as to how to save the lions, which are the pride of the country."

The HC stated in its order that the amicus curiae in its report brought to the court's notice that Rail Vikas Nigam Limited, a subsidiary of the Indian Railway, has repeatedly attempted to convert the meter gauge line into broad gauge on different routes in and around Gir Sanctuary, the abode of Asiatic lions.

"It is stated that the forest department had written to the Railways to not go ahead with the project without the National Board for Wildlife's (NBWL) nod. It is further stated that there is a kind of understanding with officials of Railway that a nod of the state board for wildlife and NBWL is not needed when there is no land acquisition for the project," the HC stated.

A concern has been raised in the report that gauge conversion will result in many trains running across the said route, further endangering the lions, the HC observed. "No reason is forthcoming from the Railway as to why conversion of the railway line on such routes is necessitated," it said.

The report also suggests the railway should work out modalities to halt the movement of goods trains from sunset to sunrise because lions are nocturnal animals and are mostly active during the night.

The lions' eyesight is six times more powerful than humans, but sudden light from the train blinds them, ultimately resulting in them being knocked down or crushed, the high court observed, quoting the report.

Fencing on both sides of the railway tracks is broken at many places or removed due to which lions come onto the tracks, the report stated.

"The railways and state government in coordination with each other should reinstall the fencing /barricades along the railway track, and discuss whether they should be reinstalled throughout the sanctuary and nearby areas up to at least 100 km to curb such accidents in future," it said.

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