IR employees take great efforts to save elephants from being hit

Elephant crossing the tracks between Sivok and Bagrakot

Raghavendra  Rao

It was twenty minutes to three in the afternoon last Saturday (November 2, 2019). Train number 15941 was being worked by G C Pal and S Nandy.

The train (weekly express which connects Jhajha and Dibrugarh) was on time and about to reach Bagrakot.

Suddenly the loco pilot slammed the emergency brake at kilometre marker 32/5 between Sivok and Bagrakot. A wild elephant just crossed the tracks.

The tweet showing pictures of the elephant crossing the tracks was widely appreciated.

On October 30, an alert gateman at level crossing gate number RT-5 informed the station master about a herd of over 25 elephants crossing the tracks.

Train number 55862 Dekargaon Rangiya passenger had just left Dekargaon at 7:30 in the morning. Messages were exchanged over walkie-talkie sets and a major mishap was averted.

The alert crew in this case were Loco pilot (LP) D K Das, Assistant Loco Pilot (ALP) A K Roy, Station Master L R Bordoloi and the gateman.

Same thing happened with the LP /ALP Prakash Kumar /Abhishek kumar on October 28. They were working train number 75713. Between Gulma and Sivok at quarter to five in the evening . By applying emergency brakes,they saved three big and one baby elephant crossing the track .

Northeast Frontier Railway has saved over 166 elephants this year to date due to alertness of railway employees. Last year the number was over 165.

This is the result of several preventive measures initiated by the zone.

These measures were initiated after it was noticed that wild elephants often crossed rail tracks through areas which were not notified as elephant corridors.

Loco Pilots have been instructed to work the train with controlled speed through notified elephant corridor areas. This has reduced cases of elephants being hit.

However, it is very difficult to control a train when the LP suddenly notices elephants on railway track in areas which are not notified as elephant corridors.

Elephant corridors on NFR

NFR has 67 notified elephant corridors. These corridors notified jointly in consultation with the forest department of the respective state.

The break-up in the five divisions of NFR are Katihar-1, Alipurduar-22, Rangiya-23, Lumding-16 and Tinsukia-5.

The incidents of elephants crossing railway track are more common in Alipurduar division and to some extent in Lumding and Rangiya divisions of NFR.

As per records, cases of elephants saved in Alipurduar division alone were 122 plus in 2019, 115 in the year 2018, 119 in 2017, 145 and 118 in 2016 and 2015 respectively.

Initiatives to avoid collision

Animals killed on tracks include :- elephant, tiger, leopard, blue bull, sambar, cheetal, black buck,wild boar, mugger/crocodile, peacock besides snakes/pythons.

Elephant corridors have been identified by Indian Railways in coordination with the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEFCC) to protect elephants from getting hit, trapped and killed on railway tracks.

IR in general and NFR in particular have taken various initiatives to avoid train-elephant collision. They work at several levels.

At the level of railways and forest department the following measures have been taken:-

  • Forming co-ordination committees of officers from Railways and State forest departments (SFDs) to identify vulnerable sections of railway tracks.
  • Regular patrolling of vulnerable stretches of railway tracks by frontline forest staff and wildlife watchers.
  • In Alipurduar division, for quick exchange of information using 25 watt VHF walkie-talkie set with frequency of Forest Department have been provided at Rajabhatkhawa, Kalchini and Hasimara stations.
  • Forest department staffs who receive prior information about elephant movement from field are posted at the train control office at Alipurduar division. LPs can then be informed immediately by the nearest Station Master to run the train cautiously. This practice is also being followed by East Coast Railways’ Sambalpur and Khurda Road divisions.

At IR’s zonal level, the following measures have been taken at the traffic and locomotive (traction) department level :-

  • Installation of Laser Speed Radar Gun to detect over speeding cases in elephant zones
  • Fixing of buzzer with Honey Bee sound at Level crossing gates of vulnerable locations
  • Staff of pantry car as well as train passengers are being sensitized not to throw eatables and leftovers on or near the railway track. The is done to ensure elephants/other animals are not lured by food on to the track.
  • All loco pilots have been counselled to observe all permanent and temporary speed restrictions and whistle continuously to warn the elephants wherever required.
  • Signage Boards have been provided at all identified elephant corridors to pre-warn driver.
  • Regulation of train speed from sunset to sunrise in vulnerable stretches
  • Provision of solar lights at vulnerable locations to deter elephants from crossing railway tracks
The board instructs loco pilots to whistle at elephant corridors Source:IRFCA

Elephant corridors on IR- Table 1 (Source:Parliament questions)

Zone Section Location Name of Forest
ECR Chhipadohar-Hehegara of Barkakana-Garwa Road Km 245/33-37 UP and Km 245/34-38 DN Bela Forest of Palamau district
NR Laksar-Dehradun KM 31-52 Rajaji National Park
NER Manjhra-Purab-Khairatia Bandh Rd H of Gonda -Bahraich-Nanpara-Mailani section Km 172-180 Katernia Ghat Sanctuary
NFR KamakhyaJn-Goalpara Town-New Bongaigaon KM 65/7-68/3 Rani Reserve Forest
NFR KamakhyaJn-Goalpara Town-New Bongaigaon KM 163- 168 Rani Reserve Forest
NFR Guwahati-Lumding KM 174/1-174/4 and KM 179/4-179-/7 Uddali Bananchal
NFR Lumding-Furkating KM 236/5-236 /8 Daidali reserve forest
NFR Furkating-New Tinsukia KM 372/2-373/4 Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary
NFR Furkating-Jorhat Town-Mariani KM 80/7-82/0 and KM 82/6-83/3 Gibbon Wildlife Sanctuary
NFR Makum Jn -Ledo Km 20/0- 20/5 Upper Dihing Reserve Forest
NFR AlipurduarJn-Siliguri Jn-New Jalpaiguri Jn Km 16/5 -27/0 Mahananda Reserve Forest
NFR AlipurduarJn-Siliguri Jn-New Jalpaiguri Jn Km 65/8-68/9 Chaparmari Wildlife Forest
NFR AlipurduarJn-Siliguri Jn-New Jalpaiguri Jn KM 128/1-130/8 Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary
NFR AlipurduarJn-Siliguri Jn-New Jalpaiguri Jn KM 140/2-141/3 Buxa Tiger reserve
NFR AlipurduarJn-Siliguri Jn-New Jalpaiguri Jn KM 16/0- 34/2 Mahananda Reserve Forest
NFR AlipurduarJn-Siliguri Jn-New Jalpaiguri Jn Km 81/6-100/6 Outside Forest
NFR AlipurduarJn-Siliguri Jn-New Jalpaiguri Jn KM 114/4-168/0 Jaldapara wildlife sanctuary & Buxa Tiger reserve
SER Sonua -Jaraikela in Chakradharpur -Rourkela section both UP and DN lines KM 332/25 -384/11 Saranda
SER Bimalgarh-Kiriburu and Karampada Kiriburu KM 487-494 and KM 454-487 Saranda
SER Jinkpani-Singhpokharia both UP and DN of Rajkharsawan-Dangoaposi section KM 321/32-34 Fringe area of Saranda Forest
SER Maluka -Noamundi of Rajkharsawan-Dangoaposi-Barbil section UP 356/19-374/5 and DN 374/6-356/20 Fringe area of Saranda Forest
SER Padapahar-Jamkundia of Padapahar-Jakhapura section UP KM 371/19-379/39 and DN379/40-371/30 Fringe area of Saranda Forest
SER Jaroli-Nayagarhof Padapahar-Jakhapura section KM 412/11-412/20 Fringe area of Saranda Forest
SWR Rayakottai-Periyanayaktonne in Bengaluru-Salem section KM 125-133 Udaya-Durgam
SR Podanur-Palakkad A Line KM 505-508 and KM 510-513 Walayar
SR Podanur-Palakkad B line Km 505-508 and KM 510-513 Walayar
ECoR Rambha-Ganjam KM 557-568 Behrampur forest division
ECoR Byre-Kapilas KM 385/32 -30 Cuttack forest division
ECoR Charbatia-Salagaon KM 402/18-20 Cuttack forest division
ECoR Dalimura-Jhinkibal bewteen Sambalpur and Boinda 14 kms Atthamalik Forest divison
ECoR Raj-athgarh to Hindol 40 kms Dhenkanal Forest divison
ECoR Talcher Road to Angul; Talcher to Kaniha;Jarpada to Kerejanga 36 kms total Angul Forest Division
ECoR Raj-athgarh to Gurudijhatia;Raj-Athgarh to Joranda Road;Raj-athgarh to Ghantikhal 32 kms total Athgarh Forest division
ECoR Keonjhar area KM 380/58/1-415/5 and KM 16/6 -23/11 Keonjhar Forest division

At the engineering department level, the following measures are being taken

  • Moderating slopes for elevated sections of railway tracks so that elephants can negotiate these easily. 
  • Moreover constructions of ramps, passages, underpasses, overpasses and fencing at several vulnerable locations have also been done.
  • Construction of girder bridges at the entrance of deep cuttings to prevent elephants getting trapped are also being done.
  • Clearance of vegetation on both sides of railway track to improve visibility of drivers.

These measures have been able to reduce elephant casualties on tracks significantly.

Table2:   Elephant casualties in train accidents (Source: Parliament questions)

Elephant death on  rail tracksFY18FY17FY16FY15FY14FY13FY12FY11FY10
Assam14103317558
West Bengal23531343121
Tamilnadu020NRNRNRNRNR1
Jharkhand020011110
Kerala020000013
Odisha2010111200
Tripura000000010
UttarakhandNR20002000
Uttar Pradesh000010000
Karnataka100000000
Total1921961725112013

Policy measures by the Centre

Only one species of elephant is found in the country – Indian Elephant (Elephas Maximus Indicus).

As part of Project Elephant of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), National Elephant Conservation Authority (NECA) has been created.

There are 29 Elephant Reserves in the country across 14 states from the North Eastern part of India to the South West.

The estimated population has risen from 25569 in 1993 to about 30,000 in 2017.

Elephant corridors numbering 88 have been identified with the help of The Elephant Task Force Report, 2010 “Gajah” along with state forest departments.

Of these, 27 are classified as priority-I and the remaining as priority-II.

Recently, seven corridors have become dysfunctional and 18-20 new corridors are being used by elephants.

At present there are approximately 100 elephant corridors in the Country.

There are 138 elephant corridors within states, 28 inter-state corridors, and 17 international corridors for elephants (Between India- Nepal,Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar).

Epilogue

No loco pilot wishes to hit an elephant while working a train. It is heartening to have so many instances of elephants being saved by timely application of brakes.

Having said that, one cannot wish away an elephant hit, only minimize such instances.

Indian Railways in tandem with the respective state forest departments are trying hard to do so. And their efforts seem to have fructified.

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About the Author: Raghavendra Rao

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