Rail advisory to curb jumbo deaths
Guwahati, May 16: The Railway Board has for the first time issued advisories to prevent train accidents involving elephants following a hue and cry from several quarters, particularly animal rights groups, in Assam, where the gentle giants are being crushed under the wheels on a frequent basis.
About 37 per cent of the total cases of elephant mortality owing to train hits in the country is in Assam alone, which is the highest, followed by West Bengal, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand. Seven elephants have been mowed down by trains in Assam this year itself.
At a meeting with officials of Northeast Frontier (NF) Railway on Friday, representatives of the state forest department have expressed concern over the increasing cases of elephant deaths following train hits in Assam.
The NF Railway, responding to the forest department’s concern, said the Railway Board had issued advisories aimed at preventing such mishaps. The railway officials admitted that the issue had become serious and that they had a role to play.
“We have expressed our concern to them and said the speed limits were not been adhered as reported by my field personnel,” chief wildlife warden (Assam) Suresh Chand told The Telegraph today.
He also informed the railway authorities of the February 28 incident where despite information being passed on to the railway stationmaster at Azara on the movement of elephants in the area, nothing was done. A female elephant had died in the incident after being hit by a train at Deepor Beel, on the outskirts of the city.
The railways had said it would fully cooperate with the forest department.
Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh had taken note of the continuing accidents involving elephant deaths in the Azara section of late compared to others where the mishaps had come down.
Ramesh had desired that the board and the ministry of environment and forests work out advisories of a general nature to prevent elephant deaths in train accidents.
One of the important advisories is engagement of elephant trackers equipped with mobile phone/walkie-talkies to receive/pass on information regarding presence of elephant herds around tracks.
Separate wireless communication facility will be provided at the stations falling within the vulnerable areas identified. On receipt of information, the stationmaster will give “look out advice” to the train crew verbally or otherwise.
Chand said the state forest department would soon act on this.
On speed restrictions, it was decided that the ministry would inform the railways about the locations where such limits are required in Assam.
There are eight locations, which have been identified as vulnerable in Assam. Of them, two sites are in Guwahati, two in Karbi Anglong and one each in Digboi, Goalpara, Nagaon and in Gibbon wildlife sanctuary in Jorhat.
However, the railways have requested for a review on the issue of speed restrictions, given that such curbs might affect train movement.
On clearance of vegetation on either side of tracks, the zonal railways will identify in consultation with the forest department the vulnerable areas and arrange need-based cleaning.
The ministry had informed the railways that elephants get attracted to the food waste thrown in the forest areas by the pantry car staff.
The railways, on its part, said it would advise the pantry car staff not to throw the edible waste in the vulnerable areas and announcements would be made at stations near vulnerable locations advising passengers not to throw such waste.
The train drivers/guards/station masters will be sensitised on wildlife conservation during periodical refresher courses at nominated zonal railway training centres.