By Shiv Sahay Singh
After gauge conversion movement of trains has increased on the line
Two elephants were mowed down by a speeding train in the Buxa Tiger Reserve in Alipurduar district in the wee hours of Tuesday morning.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (West Bengal) the N. C Bahuguna told The Hindu that a female elephant and a male sub adult elephant were run over near Hashimara. Both died at the spot.
According to forest officials, the elephants were run over by a speeding military train headed towards Guwahati. After the accident, the train got derailed and rail services were affected for some time. Mr. Bahuguna said that accident occurred at 3 am in an area designated as elephant corridor where there is regular movement of the pachyderm.
The State’s head of forest force said that such accidents were taking place regularly after the 168-km line from Siliguri in Darjeeling district to Alipurduar underwent gauge conversion in 2004 and the movement of trains increased.
50 elephants killed An estimate by the West Bengal Forest Department suggest that over the the past ten years, about 50 pachyderms were killed on railway track. While officials of the Buxa Tiger Reserve said that six elephants were killed in the reserve in 2013, six were killed after they were hit by a train near the Nagrakata-Jaldhaka bridge in Jalpaiguri district.
“The State Forest department has urged the Railways to reduce the existing speed of trains from 40 km per hour to 25 km per hour along the 168-km track,” Mr. Bahuguna said.
From the State Forest department the demand is that the Railways should stop running express and goods train on the route and opt for an alternative route from Falakata to Coochbehar, he said. Forests of North Bengal have a healthy population of 550 elephants as per the 2010 census, Mr Bahuguna said.