By Debashish Sarkar
With increasing incidences of herds of elephants being killed after being hit a moving train, the forest and railways departments have come together to save the gentle giants.
Saranda in the state’s West Singhbhum district is Asia’s biggest Sal forest reserve and a major conflict zone where trains and elephants often collide.
Stepping up efforts to save the resident elephants, the railways and forest departments have decided to limit the speed of both passenger and goods trains passing through this forested area.
South Eastern Railways’ Chakradharpur divisional railway manager (DRM) Rajendra Prasad and Singhbhum regional chief conservator of forest (RCCF) Shashi Nand Keolyer decided that both passenger and goods trains inside Saranda will have to reduce their speed to minimize incidents of trains mowing through herds of elephants.
“We have agreed to maintain a speed of 20 km/hr to 40 km/hr for passenger as well as goods trains throughout Saranda forest during daytime. The speed of the trains will be kept at around 20 km/hr during nighttime inside Saranda,” Singhbhum RCCF Keolyer told HT on Sunday.
The two top officials also decided that the trains maintain speeds under 20 km/hr while covering the 7 km stretch between Kiriburu and Karampada, deep inside Saranda.
As per a forest department record, the 820 square km Saranda forest, about 160-180 km west from here, currently has a total of 150 elephants, including both residential and migratory herds.
In addition to maintaining low train speeds in the reserve forest area, Keolyer revealed that they were also working on several other measures to prevent elephants from being killed or injured in train accidents.
“We have for made a dedicated group of elephant trackers and are training them to pickup signs of the presence of elephants in an area. We have already identified certain areas regularly visited by elephants and our survey is also on to identify such new areas. These elephant trackers will convey the possibility of presence of pachyderms and their activities to the nearest station masters, who then will alert the drivers and guards of the trains through wireless sets,” Keolyer said.