Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh on Friday visited West Bengal's Jalpaiguri district where seven elephants were mowed down by a goods train and said he will soon meet Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee to discuss the issue.
"I have written a letter to the railway minister where I have given several suggestions and I shall be meeting her to take this forward," Ramesh said.
Describing the incident as "ghastly", Ramesh said it happened at an unusual place as there was no curve along the railway track there and it occurred right next to a railway crossing.
"Since there is a 160 km stretch of railway track identified as vulnerable to animals being run over by trains, we have asked the railways to maintain a speed limit of 25-30 km per hour along the entire track. Currently, the speed limit is observed only in six places and that too of 50 km per hour, which is too high," he said.
Ramesh said he had asked the railways to reduce the frequency of goods trains between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and divert them through a track that lies south of the forest areas.
"It is possible that the alternative track be upgraded and converted into a double line track, which will be a long-term solution to the problem," he said.
About 10 watchtowers will be put up along the track to prevent similar incidents, Ramesh said, adding that it will not be a fool-proof solution.
"As 24 out of 44 identified elephant crossings fall outside the forest areas, it will not be possible to monitor from the watchtowers to be set up within the forest land," he said.
Ramesh had echoed the same message that Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee suggested him in a letter Sep 27.
Ramesh later held a high-level meeting with the forest and railway officials before going back to Sukna in Darjeeling district for a night halt.
Five elephants were killed on the spot Sep 22 while two others succumbed to their injuries Sep 23. Among the seven dead elephants, three were babies and three were females.
The elephants were crossing the railway tracks while going from Moraghat forest to Diana forest when two baby elephants got trapped in the tracks. When other elephants came to the rescue of the baby elephants, a goods train, which was passing through at that time hit them.