Jumbo effort to save wildlife on rail tracks
The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has built infrastructure and will introduce new technology to reduce elephant deaths along the Dooars railway tracks.
The stretch of 160km tracks connecting Siliguri and Alipurduar junctions passes through a number of reserve forests and wildlife habitats.
In the past two decades, that is, since the track was upgraded into broad gauge, close to 90 elephants were fatally hit by trains.
Deepak Kumar Singh, the divisional railway manager of Alipurduar division of the NFR, said they had been working in a consistent manner on the issue. According to him, the railways constructed eight ramps in and around Chalsa (near the Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary and other forests) and another four ramps between Hasimara and Madarihat stations (located near the Jaldapara National Park and Buxa Tiger Reserve) for safe passage of elephants.
“Also, a bridge has been built between Gulma and Sevoke stations (in the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary area) so that elephants do not get hit while crossing the tracks. The NFR has introduced the honeybee buzzers in 20 level crossings to deter elephants from crossing tracks during train movement. Soon, optical fibre-based elephant intrusion system (that will alert loco pilots and railway control room if any animal comes near the tracks) will be installed across the stretch. Work is already in progress in Madarihat area,” said Singh.
He added that loco pilots were regularly sensitised on the importance of wildlife and speeding curbs in these stretches. Railway authorities also keep tabs on train movements on the tracks to confirm that speed curbs are followed.
“Through these initiatives, the number of elephant deaths has considerably reduced in recent years. Many times loco pilots have also stopped trains after being alerted or after seeing elephants on rail tracks,” the official added.
He added that across Alipurduar railway division, they introduced the “one station, one product” scheme to help the local artisans.
“We identified 58 stations under the division where these artisans can open stalls in platforms against a token fee of Rs 1,000, display and sell their products. Some stalls have already opened,” said the DRM.
As of now, craft items made of wood and cane are available in New Alipurduar station and sital pati or traditional mats are on display in New Cooch Behar and Jalpaiguri Road stations. Stalls are selling pickles at Dinhata station and bamboo items at Bamanhat station.
“We are getting good response and more such stalls will come up,” said Singh.