Forest Dept., ECoR join hands to save jumbos in Odisha

Measures initiated to reduce deaths of elephants while they cross railway tracks in Ganjam district.

BERHAMPUR: Authorities from the Forest Department and the Railways have initiated joint measures to prevent the death of wild elephants in train accidents between the Rambha and Humma Railway stations under the Khallikote forest range in the Ganjam district of Odisha.

This is the region where, on the night of December 29, 2012, six wild elephants were killed when the speeding Chennai-bound Coromandel Express collided with an elephant herd that was crossing the railway tracks. Usually, wild elephants frequent this area and cross railway tracks and roads at night.

According to the Berhampur Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Ashis Behera, ahead of the coming harvest season of kharif crops, all measures have been initiated to check the possibility of accidents between trains and elephant herds. There are only 20 wild elephants in the Berhampur forest range and seven of them are in the Khallikote forest range. But every year, during the paddy harvest season, elephant herds from the Chandaka forest reach this area via the Barbara forest. During their journey, they cross the railway track between the Rambha and Humma railway stations.

The Forest Department has already erected solar-powered electrical fencing on a stretch of around three kilometres near the Satrusallya railway level crossing. A watch tower has also been erected near this level crossing, which is manned by four trackers of the Forest Department for round-the-clock monitoring of elephant movement in the region.

On September 29, a joint coordination meeting was held between officials of the Forest Department and East Coast Railway in Berhampur to streamline exchange of information on the movement of elephants in this stretch. Similar coordination meetings are to be held every month. The exact location of elephants would be provided to station masters of the Rambha and Humma railway stations every day.

In case of the issue of a caution notice regarding the movement of wild elephants in the region, train drivers will have to reduce the speed of the train and cross the seven kilometre stretch from Burudi to Satrusallya blowing long whistles.

Field staff of the Forest Department are expected to be extra vigilant during the cropping season.