Four elephants run over by Howrah-Mumbai Mail in Odisha
Teldihi level crossing in Jharsuguda district remains an accident-prone site
Four elephants — a tusker, two females and a calf — were killed when they were run over by the HowrahMumbai Mail in Odisha’s Jharsuguda district in the early hours of Monday.
“The accident occurred around 3.30 a.m. on Monday, when the herd was crossing the railway line near the Teldihi railway level crossing,” said Sushant Kumar, divisional forest officer (DFO), Jharsuguda Territorial Division. “Although there had been no elephant movements in the area over the past 3 to 4 months, Railway authorities were issued advisories to slow down the speed of trains to 25 km in this section. Besides, they were also requested to follow guidelines, including continuous hooting, along the stretch,” he said.
It was at the same location that an elephant calf died on September 28 and 29, 2017, inside a trench dug by the Railway authorities for laying cables. Twenty days later, two more elephants died after falling into the trench. Monday’s accident was a grim reminder of the accident that left five elephants dead on the railway track near Rambha in Ganjam district in 2012. Since April 2011-2012, as many as 22 elephants have been killed on railway tracks in the State.
A committee headed by the chief wildlife warden of Odisha was constituted to inquire into the Rambha train deaths. “Implementation of our recommendations, such as regular coordination meetings, restriction of train speed at vulnerable tracks, warning signboards for train drivers, and regular monitoring of elephant movements with the information to be shared with railway authorities, had yielded result. Deaths of elephants by trains could be minimised in the subsequent years,” said Biswajit Mohanty, environmentalist and member of the committee.
Stating that Monday’s elephant deaths were due to a lack of coordination between the Railways and the State Forest Department, he demanded a high-level inquiry to fix responsibility.
According to an analysis by NGO Wildlife Society of Odisha, the number of trains, especially goods trains, plying in mining and industrial areas have gone up sharply in the State. In the stretch between Meramandali and Sadashivpur stations in Dhenkanal district, which is an elephant movement path, on average nearly 100 trains ply every day.