Environment Minister seeks report on elephant deaths in Bengal train accident
Union Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave on Saturday sought a detailed report on the death of three elephants in a train accident in Bishnupur area of West Bengal. Seeking the report on the Friday incident, he asked all the authorities concerned in the accident area to "ascertain the exact reasons behind the train accident".
Dave has also directed the officials of the West Bengal Forest Department to discuss the issue with railways authorities to put in place "appropriate measures" for the conservation of elephants.
The Environment Ministry has initiated steps to prepare a Regional Landscape Plan for the conservation of elephants in the East Central Elephant Landscape, comprising West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand and other elephant areas.
The West Bengal Forest Department has also prepared a three-year action plan for controlling human-elephant conflict in south Bengal. As one of the steps is to protect the elephants from being killed in rail accidents, the department will send SMS alerts to railway authorities on the movement of elephants near railway tracks to prevent accidents.
Some of the steps taken by the railways were in pursuance to the Supreme Court directions issued in 2013 and 2014 to reduce the speed of trains passing through dense forests or discontinue their night operations in Siliguri and Alipurduar sections to prevent deaths of elephants due to train accidents.
Railways had in August 2015 told the top court that it has reduced, by 76 per cent, the number of passenger trains travelling at night through wildlife sanctuaries having large elephant population in the eastern sector of Assam and West Bengal.
Giving details based on data available till May 2015, railways had said that only 23-24 per cent trains are running in the wildlife section and 76-77 per cent in the non-wildlife section. The railways had also reduced to 25 km the speed of the goods trains passing through the stretch between Siliguri and Alipurduar junctions.