The tragic death of a 10-year old tusker by a train near Walayar Railway Station in Kerala recently has prompted forest department officials to send a written request to the railway officials of Palakkad division to reduce the speed of trains in the elephant corridors. A request has also been sent to the chief wildlife warden, V K Melkani, to hold a meeting of interstate forest and railway officials and come up with solutions to save elephants from train accidents.
According to data available with the Palakkad railway division, in the past 10 years, 11 elephants lost their life while trying to cross the railway track on the 30 km – long Kanjikode-Walayar-Madukkarai stretch.
Previously, in 2008, when three elephants were killed by a speeding train, the Tamil Nadu forest department had a meeting with Palakkad division railway officials. As an outcome of this, railways had decided to reduce the speed of trains along elephant corridors. At present, the speed limit is 45 kmph at night and 65 kmph during the day. About 40 trains ply in this stretch between 9pm and 6am. However, locomotive drivers do not strictly adhere to these limits.
“We have sent a detailed letter to the divisional railway manager of Palakkad division, requesting to reduce the train speed to 25kmph in the vulnerable stretch to save the elephants. We also have urged the chief wildlife warden to hold an interstate meeting to take appropriate steps to curb rail kill,” said A Periyasamy, district forest officer (in-charge), Coimbatore forest division.
Yet another problem is of there being five narrow passages in the stretch between Podanur and Walayar railway stations.
“The gap between the two tracks is just 1.5m on these points and as such chances of a train hitting elephants are high. So, we had repeatedly asked the Palakkad railway division to expand the space to 4m on both sides of the track as it would help curb rail kills. “said the forest officer.
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