Odisha signs MoU with WTI to save elephants from train hits

Bhubaneswar, May 10: In a bid to check growing number of cases of elephants being fatally hit by trains, Odisha government today signed an MoU with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) to develop a mitigation plan.

The New Delhi-based WTI would identify and map the critical accident prone sites and habitats of elephants and also identify factors - ecological, physical and man-made- responsible for accidental deaths of elephants.

"WTI will prepare a detailed report on mitigation plan and implement the Rs 9.9 lakh project over a period of 12 months," said Forest and Environment minister Bijayshree Routray after signing the MoU.

Last year, the state has witnessed death of about 13 elephants due to train hits.

While seven jumbos were killed due to train accidents in Keonjhar, four in Berhampur of Ganjam district and two in Dhenkanal district.

The state government had held several meetings with the Indian Railway authorities and the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) on the issue.

However, there had been no such improvement in the situation.

WTI will simultaneously organise consultations/ meetings/workshops with the staff of forest department and other stake holders departments and finalise mitigation plan and jointly implement a few identified shot term mitigation plan like signage along the railway track and awareness of train drivers, the minister said.

WTI will also ensure coordination between railway and WTI will also ensure coordination between railway and forest department staff while the plan is prepared.

"The railways have been requested to instruct drivers to reduce speed of trains in the pre-identified areas as well as developing better signage system and sensitise railway staff," the Minister said.

Asked the reason behind selecting WTI for the job, Routray said the organisation has successfully devised strategies to counter the threat of train hits in number of areas, most prominently at Rajaji National Park.

WTI executive director Vivek Menon said preventing train hits of elephants is a difficult job. "It will take time to stop these deaths altogether in such a large state with such a vast railway network. Still, we are positive that strategy devised by our field team and collaborative implementation of plan by both forest and railway staff will help reduce these accidents," he said.


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