Elephant deaths: Sonowal asks Forest, NFR to improve coordination

Guwahati, Dec 18 (IANS) Expressing concern over increasing elephant deaths on railway tracks in Assam, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Sunday directed the state Forest Department and Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) to improve coordination to avoid similar incidents.

Meeting Forest and NFR officials, he advocated a strategy to tackle rising number of such incidents, and favoured joint monitoring of railway tracks on daily basis. He also instructed the Forest Department to adopt an aggressive approach.

The Chief Minister’s directive came after three elephants, including a pregnant female and a calf, were killed by a speeding railway engine at Potiapam near Kampur on Saturday night. This was the third such incident that have taken place in the state this month after at Nagaon and Goalpara districts which had left a total of five jumbos dead.

The Chief Minister also ordered immediate setting up local level Monitoring Committee involving people living in adjoining areas of the tracks in all the 29 elephant corridors with a view to share real time information with the Railway Control Rooms, where Forest Department officials would also be deputed.

Sonowal also instructed to set up a joint coordination committee under the leadership of respective Sub-Divisional Officers and Circle Officers to monitor joint activities, such as joint survey of railway track, cleaning of jungles, streamlining of slopes near tracks, installation of signages at vulnerable points with emergency contact number etc.

Underlining the need for a long time strategy to stop all such incidents, the Chief Minister also said that the Forest Department has to improve their communication network and adopt new technologies, instructing it to implement Advance Warning System and solar lights with alarms at vulnerable railway tracks, and use remote sensor and GPS indicator insertion in leaders of elephant herds to monitor their movement.

Sonowal also stressed on the need to study the psychology of elephants by the Forest Department and construction of need-based over and under passes.

Urging officials to be more sensitive to the well-being of animals, he also Chief Minister directed to immediately conduct sensitisation of train drivers as well as higher officials of railways.