Watch towers to prevent train-elephant collisions

Siliguri, Nov 15 : The West Bengal government has decided to construct watch towers on the Siliguri-Alipurduar railway stretch known as the 'elephant corridor' to prevent deaths of elephants, a minister said Friday.

State Forest Minister Hiten Barman said the watch towers would be set up along the 165 km long railway track to monitor the movement of the elephants and regulate the speed of the trains.

A speeding Kavi-Guru Express Wednesday mowed down five elephants and injured several others including a pregnant female near the Nagrakata-Jaldhaka bridge in Jalpaiguri district. The incident has led to a war of words between the forest department and the railways.

While the forest department claimed the train was running at a speed higher than the prescribed limit and lodged a complaint against the driver of the train, the railways claimed that the area did not come in the elephant corridor.

Since 2004, when the tracks on the Siliguri-Alipurduar route were converted to broad gauge, speeding trains have killed nearly 50 elephants. Following the spate of elephant deaths, in 2010 the speed of the trains was restricted to 40 km per hour.

Meanwhile, the forest officials are busy trying to save the injured pregnant female though doctors fear the calf might have died.

Range officer Bijon Talukdar said the elephant which has severely fractured its spinal cord was responding to treatment.

The forest officials also have the arduous task of preventing a herd of around 40 elephants camping in the nearby jungle from coming near the injured female lying beside the track.

--IANS (Posted on 15-11-2013)

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