Wesco, South Eastern Railway staff lukewarm to elephant safety

Sundargarh district, which shares forest borders with Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, continues to witness elephant deaths due to electrocution and train collisions.
The electrocuted elephants.
The electrocuted elephants.

ROURKELA: Sundargarh district, which shares forest borders with two states Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and also Sambalpur district, continues to witness elephant deaths due to  electrocution and collision with train. Yet, the power distribution company Wesco and the South Eastern Railway (SER) continue to remain indifferent towards safety of the pachyderms.

Sources said on April 12, a sub-adult female elephant was killed after being hit by a goods train near Bimlagarh, about 70 km from here, under Banki range of Rourkela Forest Division.
If senior forest officials are to be believed, then apparently, there were lapses on the part of the elephant trackers and the train driver leading to violation of standard safety protocol.

At present, three forest officials ensure round-the-clock co-ordination with the SER control room at Bondamunda to issue caution to blow the siren and restrict train speed to 20-30 km per hour in the event of elephant movement within 3 km from  the tracks.

A senior forest official of Rourkela division said the SER is sitting on a proposal to barricade 16 sensitive points of elephant movements between Bimlagarh and Champajharan stations with scrap rails. In November 2013, an adult tusker was killed by the speeding Gitanjali Express near Sunakhan of Rajgangpur range of the division.

On January 25, a sub-adult female elephant had died on a farmland after coming in contact with sagging live wires at Garda village of Bisra range. In November 2014, an adult female elephant had died of electrocution in Kuanrmunda range and in July 2011, an adult tusker also died of electrocution in Koida range of Bonai Forest Division. Instances of sagging live wires are galore in the district.   
Since 2013, about 10 elephants had died in Rourkela division for different reasons while three elephant deaths were reported in Bonai and four in Sundargarh divisions.

Rourkela Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Sanjeet Kumar said instructions have been issued to SER to secure vulnerable railway track points while a fresh list of vulnerable elephant movement areas are being submitted to Wesco to tighten sagging wires at a minimum height of 6.4 metres and equip electric posts with spikes and circuit breakers.

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