Four ele­phants run over by Howrah-Mum­bai Mail in Odisha

Teldihi level cross­ing in Jhar­sug­uda district re­mains an ac­ci­dent-prone site

The Hindu - - NATION - Satya­sun­dar Barik

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.

Death trap

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.

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