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To protect elephants, stop night movement of trains: Bengal

 

THE TIMES OF INDIA
Dhananjay Mahapatra
Dec 4, 2013

NEW DELHI: Though railways is developing an e-warning system along tracks to forewarn train drivers about the presence of elephants, the West Bengal government has told the Supreme Court that trains must not ply through north Bengal forest areas in the night to prevent elephants getting knocked down.

West Bengal said it was of the view that "in case of north Bengal, the only solution is to stop all the trains running at night in Dooars line (Gulma-Alipurduar) or running at maximum speed of 25 km per hour" and added that 78% of elephant deaths occurred during the night (6 pm to 6 am).

The Mamata Banerjee government, responding to a PIL on elephant deaths on railway tracks, told the SC, "Since 1974 till date, 70 elephants were killed in train accidents, out of which 67 were in north Bengal. In the last three years, the number of elephants killed on railway tracks counts to 28."

PIL petitioner Shakti Prasad Nayak had alleged that 57 elephants were killed after colliding with running trains in West Bengal since 1994. The state said, "Most such accidents took place in north Bengal and within forest areas." It identified the Gulma-Alipurduar track as a death trap for elephants as the railway track cut through the elephant corridor.

"On September 22, 2010, seven elephants got killed being hit by a speeding train. On January 5 this year, five elephants were knocked down and on May 30 this year, four more were killed and one injured by a train," the state said. Trains killed 10 elephants in 2010, three in 2011, two in 2012 and 10 in 2013, it added.

"It is not denied that number of death of elephants on railway tracks in north Bengal has increased after conversion of metre gauge line from Gulma to Alipurduar (Dooars line) into broad gauge in 2004. Since then, 40 incidents of elephant deaths due to running trains have taken place," the state said.


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