Kolkata: The death of seven elephants including a calf has forced the state government to take preventive measures against elephant-train collisions.
According to State Forest Minister Hiten Barman: “Watch towers would be set up along the 165-kilometre-long Siliguri-Alipurduar railway stretch known as the ‘elephant corridor’ to prevent deaths of elephants.”
“The watch towers will monitor the movements of elephants and regulate the speed of the trains. In spite of repeated reminders the railways have not regulated the speed of its trains. If it still does not listen, we will have to stop movements of trains in the area during night time,” Burman added.
On Wednesday, a speeding train, mowed down seven elephants and injured 10 others including a pregnant elephant inside Chapramari forests in North Bengal.
The forest department has already lodged a police complaint against the train driver claiming that the train was running at a speed higher inside the “elephant corridor” than the prescribed limit. However, the railways have claimed that the incident happened outside the prescribed area.
“We do not want any short-term measures but a complete stoppage of movement of all trains running at night along the route. The operation of goods and express trains along the route which falls on elephant corridors should be stopped,” N.C. Bahuguna, Chief Conservator of Forests, Wildlife told Gulf News.
In between, a Public Interest Litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking direction to the Centre and certain states, including Karnataka, to take steps to prevent the incidents of elephant deaths on railways tracks.
The petition filed by Shakti Prasad Nayak has contended that as trains accounted for 37 per cent of the elephant deaths. Immediate steps are required to stop the killing of elephants in the country.
“Elephant deaths due to an accident caused by trains could be prevented by the prior determination of the position of the elephants from a distance by the use of thermal infrared cameras that can be fitted to the engine. The elephant’s body emits Infrared radiation and that can be caught by the camera. This will help the train driver to take precautionary measures with enough time at his disposal for the image to be obtained at a point that is way behind the elephant’s position,” the PIL said.
The increasing number of deaths of elephants on railway tracks violates Article 48-A and 51-A (g) of the Constitution and provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the Indian Forest Act, the Indian Penal Code, the Forest Conservation Act and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1986, the petition said.