BHUBANESWAR: Chief Wildlife Warden Sandeep Tripathi on Thursday rushed to Jharsuguda to make an on-the-ground assessment of how the four elephants were mowed down by a speeding train.
In the last eight years, at least 19 elephants have been run over by trains in Odisha. The highest number of 11 casualties was reported in 2012-13. On December 30, 2012 alone, five elephants were run over by a speeding train in Ganjam district triggering a massive outrage. Since then, both Indian Railway and Forest Department have been chalking out strategies to minimise deaths on the tracks. The outcome has been mixed.
The two agencies regularly meet to coordinate efforts. The Railway authorities have set up control rooms at major elephant passages where forest field staff are deployed. Basing on information about movement of herds from trackers, caution is issued and train speed is restricted. However, the initiatives have not, clearly, worked. Both sides blame each other. Railway authorities have claimed that forest officials want blanket speed restriction in major routes which is impossible to enforce, or at best, not practical. Sometimes, the speed restriction is requested for 12 hours at a stretch. On the other hand, Forest Department alleges that train drivers do not follow the speed restrictions because punctuality of train is affected.
Forest Department too has been found wanting in its efforts while providing the accurate information about movement of the pachyderm groups. The Bagdihi-Dhutura section where the four elephants were mowed down on Monday morning was one such example.Sources said there are two control rooms at Bandhamunda and Chakradharpur where representatives of local forest division were present. Why was no alert issued about movement of the herd remains a big question.