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Brace for more jumbo deaths on tracks



TIMES OF INDIA
Krishnendu Mukherjee
Sep 6, 2015

KOLKATA: A stretch of railway tracks that cuts through a protected area in North Bengal and sees an average of five elephant deaths every year due to train accidents will now see a sharp rise in traffic, increasing the risk to the jumbos.

The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), under the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF), has given its nod to the proposed extension of the broad gauge line from Sevoke near Siliguri to Sikkim's Rangpo that will pass through Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary and several other key elephant habitats.

An existing rail link from New Jalpaiguri to Sevoke, which passes through a part of Mahananda, had earlier seen several elephant deaths. As many as 55 elephants were run over by trains between Alipurduar and Siliguri between 2004 and 2015. The latest death was reported on May 7, when a male jumbo was run over by the Intercity Express near Madarihat station.

In a meeting on June 24, the NBWL standing committee cleared the proposal for diversion of 86.6255 hectares (18.604 ha under Darjeeling forest division, 12.3436 ha under Kurseong forest division, 8.8489 ha under Wildlife I division and 46.829 ha under Kalimpong forest division) of forest land in favour of the North-Frontier Railway, Jalpaiguri for construction of the Sevoke-Rangpo new broad gauge railway line. The members asked the railways to start work right away.

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