Railway to form speed norms for wildlife areas

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]rains may soon have to slow down in the areas having frequent movement of elephants in the State as a high-level committee of the Ministry of Railway is likely to recommend speed restriction.

The issue cropped up during a review meeting on tiger as well as elephant conservation plans in the State by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik here on Thursday. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) JD Sharma made a presentation to the Chief Minister on the conservation issues and future action plans of the Wildlife Wing.

Sharma said the State Government’s request to the Railway Ministry on speed restriction may yield result and a decision in this regard is expected shortly.

Elaborating the reasons for increasing mishaps, he said, earlier a train movement took place every 24 minutes and now it has come down to 17 minutes, posing problems for the jumbos to make risk-free movement. Besides, certain super fast trains travel at 110 km per hour in the elephant movement zones and a speed restriction could come as a major relief for the large-bodied animals in Huma, Athagarh, Angul-Rairakhole and Keonjhar where the mishaps take place recurringly.

Since electrocution of elephants has been a matter of grave concern, the Chief Minister was informed that a budgetary provision of Rs. 21 crore has been made for Energy Department. The funds will be utilised to prevent sagging power wires by installation of additional poles and circuit breakers wherever necessary. Most vulnerable regions such as Keonjhar, Dhenkanal and Bhanjanagar will see the measures being undertaken in the first phase.

Besides, the Wildlife Wing also informed that a Corridor Management Plan is being implemented in 14 identified corridors to improve the habitats. Chief Secretary wanted to know how long will it take before the plan gives results.

The meeting revealed that intensified combing operation has been taken up in Similipal where 34 guns were seized in last one month while two tusks were recovered from Hadgarh. There are two notified Tiger Reserves – Similipal and Satkosia – in the State while Sunabeda is awaiting the final nod.

In view of Akhand Shikar and prevalence of poachers, it was suggested that 122 protection assistants deployed in the buffer zones of Similipal be inducted in the Special Tiger Protection Force which the National Tiger Conservation Authority is funding.

Sharma, however, requested that in such an event, immediate recruitment should be made to fill up the vacancies foer 122 positions since it will create a conservation void in the buffer zone where the poachers prowl.

Secretary, Forest and Environment RK Sharma, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests PN Padhi and RCCF of Similipal Anup Nayak and RCCF, Angul Pandav Behera were also present at the meeting.

Original Story: New Indian Express