Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Wednesday urged the Union minister for environment and forest, Jayanthi Natarajan, to prevail upon the railway ministry to ensure imposition of speed restrictions on trains in national parks/ sanctuaries, elephant reserves and major elephant crossing points.
Raising the issue of recent tragic deaths of five elephants in a train accident in Odisha’s Ganjam district, Patnaik said in a letter to Natarajan, the accident occurred due to high speed in spite of the cautionary signboards of ‘Elephant Crossing Zone’ erected by the side of the railway track. “In fact, the train had crossed the third signboard by the time of the accident. This unfortunate tragedy could have been averted had the speed of the train reduced by the railways,” Patnaik said.
Patnaik advised the Railway Board to revisit its advisories and instructions relating to prevention of train accidents involving elephants and make appropriate amendments in consultation with chief wildlife wardens and other wildlife experts to prevent recurrence of such incidents.
The accident had occurred on January 30 between Rambha and Huma railway stations in Ganjam when the Chennai-bound Coromandel Express from Howrah hit an elephant herd crossing the track in Ganjam district of the state. Forest officials blamed railway authorities for the accident while railway officials denied receiving any early alert.
The Odisha government took the matter with the union ministries of railways as well as environement and forest. Last week, Natarajan had described the Odisha accident as “most unfortunate” and asked the railway officials to ensure that speeding trains did not pose a threat to wild life, especially in vulnerable patches, which have already been identified as wild life crossing spots.