4 elephants killed as train rams into herd  in Odisha; forest dept files case against Railways
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4 elephants killed as train rams into herd in Odisha; forest dept files case against Railways

The herd was crossing the tracks in a region identified as an elephant corridor when the Howrah-Mumbai Mail rammed into the animals.

india Updated: Apr 16, 2018 22:08 IST
Debabrata Mohanty
Debabrata Mohanty
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar
Elephants killed,Elephants killed by train,Elephant corridor
Four elephants of a herd were mowed down by a speeding train in Odisha on Monday. (HT Photo)

Four elephants, including a tusker and a calf, were killed early Monday morning in an elephant corridor Jharsuguda district of Odisha when they were knocked down by a speeding train in the worst such tragedy in the state since 2012.

The 12810 Howrah-Mumbai Mail passing through Bagdihi forest range rammed into the pachyderms as they were trying to negotiate their way across track near an unmanned level crossing near Teladihi early this morning. All the animals were killed in the impact of collision, said Jharsuguda Divisional Forest Officer Sushant Kumar.

Forest officials said the herd probably was coming from the Bamra wildlife division, a part of the Sambalpur elephant reserve, around 20 km away.

Assistant conservator of forest (ACF), Jharsuguda division, Pradeep Kumar Dhal said, a case has been lodged against South Eastern Railways. “We have also written to the SE Railway asking it to reduce the train speed to 30 km per hour on the route, particularly on the stretch between Jharsuguda division and Bamra wildlife division, henceforth,” Dhal said.

Sanjay Ghosh, chief public relation officer (CPRO), SE Railway, told the HT over phone from Kolkata that the forest officials did not inform railway authorities about the movement of the elephants in the area beforehand.

“As per rule, it is for forest officials to intimate railway about elephants’ presence, movements, possible routes and timing beforehand. In the present case, they didn’t inform us,” said Ghosh.

Also read: Elephants from Karnataka to be taught Hindi in Jharkhand

Three earth moving machines were deployed to clear the carcasses from the tracks . Several trains including Bokaro-Alleppey Express and Tapaswini Express were stopped at Jharsuguda station.

Wildlife activists said the mishap exacerbates concerns about the state’s record on such incidents. In December 2012, the Coromandel Express knocked down six elephants at Rambha area of Ganjam district. In the last 8 years, 22 elephants in the state have been killed on rail tracks.

The place where Monday’s mishap took place is known to be a vulnerable spot for elephants. Last September, a four-month-old calf that had sneaked into Teladihi village in search of food died after falling into a railway trench. A month later, a 15-year-old female elephant was electrocuted by a stray live wire while trying to rescue her calf that had fallen into another trench. The calf died too.

In the aftermath of the December 2012 incident in Ganjam district, a committee set up by the Union ministry of environment and forests had recommended that the Railways should restrict the speed of trains passing through identified vulnerable areas in forests to a maximum 40 km per hour to prevent elephant deaths. The committee had advised speed restrictions through identified vulnerable tracks in Odisha as is done in Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand. Ever since these recommendations were implemented, the number of train kills had came down in the following three years.

Also read:Railways to build 500km wall along Delhi-Mumbai route to quicken pace of trains

But Monday’s incident sparked outrage rage among wildlife activists who said it was apparent that despite the forest department and the railway authorities being aware about the spot being an elephant corridor, they did nothing to prevent more deaths.

“Today’s incident is nothing less than massacre of elephants by Railways. The forest department had issued a specific advisory to the Railways to slow down trains at Teladihi section as it was a regular elephant crossing zone. Why did not the Railways take the necessary steps? The casual approach towards safety of wildlife would not be tolerated. An immediate enquiry needs to be done to fix responsibility after identifying the lapses and failure on part of the railways,” said Dr Biswajit Mohanty, former member of National Board of Wildlife.

Mohanty said in Odisha the frequency and number of trains, specially goods trains in mining and industrial areas have gone up sharply.

Activists claim that despite rising elephant casualties in Odisha over last decade, officials haven’t taken enough measures to prevent such incidents. In last nine years, 589 elephants have died, of which 205 deaths were unnatural. While poaching (95) and electrocution (87) were main reasons of these unnatural deaths, death on train tracks was the third biggest cause.

First Published: Apr 16, 2018 15:24 IST