In yet another incident of man-animal conflict in West Bengal’s Dooars on September 27, the Siliguri-Dhubri Intercity Express between Banarhat and Nagrakata hit an elephant that was trying to cross the tracks in the jungle. The animal was severely injured and later succumbed to its injuries. A video of the accident became viral.
Ever since the line was converted to broad gauge, the Banarhat-Nagrakata route has become notorious for elephant deaths. The route runs across several elephant corridors. Since its first run, it has injured and killed several wild animals on its way.
In the video from morning of September 27, the critically injured elephant can be seen trying in vain to drag itself out of the train’s way, as people watch in helplessness The video left people across social media devastated. The engine on the other side of the frame shows the impact of the hit as well.
The frequency of accidents along these routes prompted forest officials and railways to try and come up with solutions. In 2015-2016, railways had limited the speed of the trains to 25 kmph inside the forest area. The speed was increased to 50 kmph during the daytime as the number of elephant deaths and injuries in the area came down later that year.
Despite the frequent restrictions and checks. The trains continue to kill elephants.
A total of 67 elephants were mowed down by trains in the period between 2013 to June 2019.
After an accident in July 2018, CV Raman, Alipurduar divisional railway manager of the Northern Frontier Railways was quoted by India Today as saying, “We have imposed a 24-hour speed restriction along a 15 km stretch between Chalsa and Banarhat stations in the Dooars. For 10 km, trains will run at a speed of 30 kmph from 5pm to 5am, while along the remaining 5-km stretch, the trains will run at a speed of 30 kmph for 24 hours.”
The Dooars line in 2004 was converted from metre gauge to broad gauge. This move caused a lot of elephant deaths. The trains in the areas also increased after the tracks were converted to broad gauge.
The Northern Frontier Railways this July was awarded for an innovative method it came up with to keep elephants from crossing railway tracks. The idea of a ‘buzzer’, the amplified sound of buzzing of honey bees, won NF Railways the best innovation award in Indian Railways for 2018-19.
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