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PIL to check accidents of jumbos on railway tracks

Kolkata: A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) has been filed in Calcutta High Court over increasing accidents caused by elephants on railway tracks in North Bengal.

"We have filed a PIL with the Calcutta High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for the safety of elephants. Measures should be taken so that these animals don't get hit by trains in the North Bengal in July this year," said Sangita Iyer, founder of Voice for Asian Elephants Society (VFAES).

The PIL suggested construction of under-passes and over-passes across critical elephant corridors, infra red fencing and early warning systems, reduction of train speed in vulnerable stretches, deputation of sufficient number of

security personnel around critical elephant corridors and others.

Iyer, National Geographic Explorer and recipient of Nari Shakti Puraskar (Woman Power Award), pointed out that 15 to 20 elephants die due to train accidents in the 168-km-long New Jalpaiguri-Alipurduar railway track every year. The accidents take place between 6 pm and 6 am.

"There are approximately 40,000 Asian elephants across the world. Almost 60 percent i.e. 29,000 Asian elephants are in India. Earlier, 500 Asian elephants used to stay in West Bengal. According to the latest elephant census in 2017, the number of Asian elephants in West Bengal reduced to 302," Iyer.

While elephants are accorded the highest degree of protection and are listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Indian Railways had limited the speed of the trains to 25 kmph

inside the forest areas in 2015-2016.

It might be mentioned the high mortality track in question is the 168 km line running between Siliguri and Alipurduar in northern West Bengal where 52 elephants have died since 2004.

The track passes through protected forest areas—Buxa, Chapramari, Jaldapara and Mahananda—cutting across a prime elephant habitat.

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