WILDLIFE & POLITICAL ATTENTION: Towers on jumbo stretch – Ramesh visits mow-down site at Moraghat – interesting concept of vigilance towers for most wildlife tourists, but small radio ear tagging of herd leaders more cost effective ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY AVIJIT SINHA
Banarhat (Jalpaiguri), Oct. 1: Jairam Ramesh today said watchtowers would be raised along known 44 elephant corridors as a first move to curb jumbo deaths on tracks in north Bengal.
The Union minister of environment and forests laid stress on forest initiatives instead of banking on the railways which have so far expressed inability to accept any proposals from Ramesh’s ministry.
“There were proposals like doubling of the other rail track (via Jalpaiguri-Mainaguri and Dhupguri to reduce pressure on the Siliguri-Alipurduar route) and halt movement of goods trains at night through the Dooars track. But right now, we need to make some sort of intervention, which is why we have decided to raise watch towers near the rail track on the known elephant corridors,” said Ramesh, who today visited Moraghat where seven elephants were mowed down by a goods train on the night of September 22. The spot is on the Siliguri-Alipurduar tracks and is not part of any notified elephant corridor.
These watchtowers will be manned throughout the night and information on elephant movement near the tracks will be conveyed first to forest superiors who will pass it on to the railways.
“There are 44 corridors, 20 of which are within forests (notified) while 24 are outside forest areas like this accident site. We are ready to bear the expenses for the constructions of these watchtowers. Regarding other areas which are not marked but elephants are known to be crossing the rail tracks we have asked for information from the state.”
When Ramesh accompanied by state forest minister reached Moraghat, the local people, including supporters of the Akhil Bharatiya Adivasi Vikas Parishad, expressed their anguish at Ananta Roy for not visiting the spot earlier. “You came all the way from Delhi but the state minister, who resides in Cooch Behar, did not bother to visit and has come here only today. How can we believe that the state forest department is serious in conserving elephants?” one of the local people said.
Asked on the railway ministry’s rigid stand, Ramesh said: “I have written to Mamata Banerjee and have talked to her today and will meet her in another couple of days. However, I want to make it clear the rigidity would not serve the purpose.”
He also instructed Atanu Raha, the principal chief conservator of forests of the state, to prepare a presentation. “I and the railway minister, along with officials of the departments concerned can sit together and the PCCF can make a detailed presentation of the elephant issue as well as probable solutions. The meeting will be fixed very shortly,” he said.