Committee to prevent jumbo deaths in north Bengal

February 16th, 2008 - 8:53 am ICT by admin  

By Soudhriti Bhabani
Kolkata, Feb 16 (IANS) Repeated incidents of elephant deaths on railway tracks running through the forests of West Bengal have prompted the government to form a committee to protect the pachyderms. The central government has constituted a committee to find out why elephants are being repeatedly mowed down by trains in north Bengal forests. The state principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) heads the committee,” West Bengal Forest Minister Ananta Roy told IANS.

He said the expert committee had already started a survey on a stretch from Siliguri to Alipurduar in the Dooars forest area. Action would be taken on the basis of the committee’s recommendations.

The committee comprises wildlife experts, local NGOs and railway officials.

Forest department sources said the panel was formed after the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) conducted a study to find out the reason behind elephant deaths.

WWF is the world’s largest international NGO for conservation, research and restoration of the natural environment. It has over five million supporters worldwide, working in more than 90 countries and aiding 15,000 conservation and environmental projects around the world.

Since 2004, when the railway track between Siliguri and Alipurduar was converted into a broad gauge line - allowing an increase in train speed - nine elephants and two bisons have died on the stretch.

Around 350 elephants, according to the 2005 census, live in a 200-km forest stretch near the West Bengal-Assam border at Sankosh and the India-Nepal Mechi border.

This entire forest corridor is fragmented by several railway lines that pose a major hindrance to elephants in moving from one forest to another in search of food and water.

“We don’t know if we are in the expert committee. But we would definitely urge the committee to divert all special and goods trains to the main line so that elephant movement in the forest corridors remains unaffected in north Bengal,” said Animesh Bose, a wildlife activist and member of the Himalayan Nature And Adventure Foundation (HNAF).

He said there should be no specific elephant corridor between Siliguri and the Alipurduar forest area. The entire stretch is vulnerable. It’s not possible to restrict the movement of elephants in their own territory.

“The speed limit of night-bound trains should be restricted to avert elephant deaths,” he said.

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