BHUBANESWAR: Inadequate coordination, poor warning system and delay in construction of underpasses led an elephant to be run over by a train in Sambalpur on Saturday evening. A team led by Sambalpur DFO Sanjeet Kumar visited the spot late last night, while another team of railway headed by Divisional Railway Manager Pradeep Kumar also took stock of the situation and initiated probe into the matter.
However, there are grey areas where both forest and railways failed to reach a consensus which could have prevented the mishap. Forest officials admit that the caution had not been issued for the stretch where the train hit the tusker on the track on 33-km Jujumara-Haribari stretch under Sadar forest range. “It is always a challenge to track movement of a single elephant, especially when it gets separated from the herd,” Kumar said.
The 12-year-old male jumbo had separated from its herd and walked onto the track located on an elevated surface where elephant movement hadn’t been recorded before. Caution is usually issued for 2 km stretch and the incident took place outside that zone.
In absence of any underpass or overpass on Jujumura-Hatibari stretch, this was waiting to happen. Sources said six underpasses and overpasses were planned on the stretch but are yet to materialise. The Forest department had proposed Sambalpur division of East Coast Railway (ECoR) to take mitigation measures at one spot each in Jujumara and Jhankarpali, two in Hatibari and three in Bhimkhoj, but due to lack of funds no work could be taken up.
Besides, the railway officials are also reluctant to slow down the speed of trains on the entire stretch to avoid delay in schedule of other trains, the forest officials said. The DRM Sambalpur couldn’t be reached for his comments on the matter.
On the other hand, proposals submitted for construction of underpasses and overpasses to prevent death of wild animals in Angul, Athagarh, Athamallik, Dhenkanal, Bamra, Bargarh and Jharsuguda divisions are also hanging fire as the funds have not been released by the MoEFCC. PCCF (Wildlife) HS Upadhyay couldn’t be reached for his comments.