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May 27: The Assam forest department and the WWF-India have identified Deepor Beel and Panikhaiti among the most dangerous stretches of railway tracks in the state for elephants.

The identification is part of the process to chalk out a strategy to find a solution to the problem of elephants being hit by trains.

“The areas are being identified so that the exact stretches can be pinpointed to the railways for proper measures,” a forest official said.

He said the railways wanted to know precisely the areas where the accidents were taking place as that a practicable solution could be chalked out.

In August 2007, two elephants were killed after a freight train knocked them down near Deepor Beel. In 2004, three elephants were knocked down near the same stretch.

“The decision will ultimately rest with the railways as they will be implementing it. We can, however, suggest some solutions,” the official said.

Forest officials have also recommended that signs, like the ones found on highways, should be put up on railway stretches prone to such accidents. The suggestion has been incorporated in the draft plan. Another suggestion is that the engine driver can blow a whistle to chase away the elephants when they come close to the tracks.

“The speed limit should be 20-30 km per hour, but it is up to the railways to finalise what limit can be prescribed,” the official said.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, India, has filed a Right to Information request with the ministry of railways, asking what action has been taken to protect elephants from being knocked down by speeding trains.

It has requested railway minister Lalu Prasad to establish “an empowered committee” with representation from the ministry of railways, the ministry of surface transport, the ministry of environment and forests, the Wildlife Institute of India and various NGOs working in this field to develop a plan of action to protect elephants.

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