Elephant Deaths In Odisha: Rail, Power Infra Modification Works Behind Schedule

Bhubaneswar: In October 2018, seven elephants died due to electrocution after coming in contact with a low-hanging 11 KV power line in what is considered as the State’s worst ever pachyderm tragedy. Fast forward to the present day, and it seems nothing much has changed as far as the renovation of electricity lines to prevent jumbo deaths is concerned.

According to official data released during a high level joint coordination meeting of Forest, Power department and the Railways, only 30 to 40 percent modification works to ensure safety and security of the pachyderms in the elephant corridors have been completed.

It may be noted that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had asked the concerned departments to take adequate measures to curb electrocution deaths of elephants and other wildlife in the forest areas by modifying the existing electricity lines by December 2018. Not only the target has missed the deadline, but surprisingly, concerns have now been raised whether the works would be completed even in 2020.

While the Energy department has blamed financial crunch and cyclone Fani as the main reasons behind delay, State Chief Wildlife Warden, Hari Shankar Upadhyaya has expressed grave worry over the situation and asked the concerned departments to expedite the works.

At a time when electrocution has claimed lives of as many as 89 elephants in last 8 years, rate of jumbo deaths due to mishap on railway tracks stands at 24, which is no less severe.  While the Forest department has several rules for movement of trains in elephant corridors which includes, limiting the speed of train to maximum 40 to 50 kmph, the norms are considered as headache for the Railways, because it is leading to delays, revenue loss and traffic mismanagement.

Sailendra Kapil, Chief Passenger Transportation Manager of East Coast Railway said, “Proposals for other projects like underpass to ensure free movement of elephants are already under discussion. Once Railways makes arrangements for funding and other prerequisites, we will begin the works.”