Bhubaneswar, Sept 1 (LocalWire): With highways turning virtual death traps for elephants, the state forest department has decided to install speedbreakers at strategic spots in an attempt to prevent these animals from meeting with accidents.
The initiative comes in the wake of the death of three elephants who were knocked down by a speeding truck on the national highway 20 under Ghatagaon forest range in Keonjhar district on 22 August.
The forest department has identified 65 spots on highways passing through Angul, Dhenkanal, Athgarh, Keonjhar, Anandpur, Jharsuguda and Rairakhol which are vulnerable to elephants being moved down by speeding vehicles, said senior officials of the state forest department.
The department asked the National High Authority of India and State Highway Authority to put in place road rumblers and speed breakers in the spots identified as elephant movement corridors.
The department has also decided to bring some of the vulnerable spots under CCTV surveillance to keep tab on elephants’ movement and errant vehicles.
More caution sign boards, made of reflective materials for clear visibility during night, will be used to alert drivers to slow down, will be installed.
It has also been decided to build underpasses to facilitate safe passage of animals.
The highways fall in the migration path of elephants and the animals stride along the NH at specific pockets either during sunrise or sunset and vehicular movement is suspended for ten to fifteen minutes every day to allow unhindered passage to elephants.
The department engaged service groups with trackers to locate elephants through GPS. To assist them, the department has decided to rope in ‘Gajabandhus’ (friends of elephants). These volunteers will be picked up from villages lying close to elephant habitation corridors and imparted training and paid monthly honorarium, the officials added.
With as many as 718 elephants perishing in less than a decade, the state has virtually turned into a graveyard for elephants, accorded national heritage animal status. The state has lost 87 elephants in 2018-19.
Odisha, with 70% elephant population in eastern India, is home to 1976 elephants as per the latest census released by the state forest department.