World Wildlife Day

Speed limit 20km, only on paper

Wildlife dying unabated in Lawachara rail track
It’s been a month since the Ministry of Railways instructed Bangladesh Railways to bring down the speed limit of trains passing through Lawachara forest to 20 kilometres. However, the orders have not yet been implemented. As a result, rare animals and wildlife in general continue to be killed by speeding trains inside the forest.

All trains running through the Lawachara National Park in Moulvibazar have been instructed to run at a maximum speed of 20 kilometres per hour to ensure the safety of the wildlife in the area.

It has been almost a month since the issuing of the order. However, the local railway authorities claimed they have not received any letter from the Ministry of Railways yet. The lack of implementation of the order has resulted in the continuous killings of rare and endangered animals on the rail tracks passing through the forest.

A week ago, the railway police recovered a deer on the rail track, with its throat slit by the Kalni Intercity Express. The forest department has claimed that the killing was purposeful to avail of the deer's meat.

Divisional Forest Officer of Sylhet Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Department Rezaul Karim Chowdhury sent a letter to the forest conservator of Wildlife and Nature Conservation Area in this regard on November 14, 2021. The letter proposed that the maximum speed on the train line be reduced to 20km per hour to protect the wildlife of the area.

Following the same proposal, Rezaul issued another letter to the Conservator of Forests, Wildlife and Nature Reserve on February 27 last year. The letter provided a rationale for reducing the speed of trains inside the Lawachara National Park, highlighting some of his experiences of travelling via trains through India's Rajaji National Park.

According to the letter, the speed limit of trains on the railway line inside Rajaji National Park on the way from Dehradun to Haridwar-Rishikesh, a place of pilgrimage for the Hindu community, has been kept at a maximum speed of 20km to protect elephants, tigers, langur, monkey and deer in the national park.

Meanwhile, another letter was sent from the Ministry of Forest and Environment to the Ministry of Railways on January 25. On January 29, a letter signed by Taufiq Imam, deputy secretary (additional duties) of the Ministry of Railways was sent to the Director General of Bangladesh Railways, instructing him to take necessary measures to keep the speed limit of all the trains running on the existing railway within 20km.

Rezaul Karim told this correspondent, "Every year, seven to eight large animals are killed by the trains. The track through the forest is only seven-and-a-half kilometres long. But the train goes so fast, the forest shakes."

"After we wrote a letter to the railway ministry over the matter, the ministry sent a letter to Bangladesh Railway on January 29 regarding the decision. It has been a month since the instructions were given but the local railway authorities are still not implementing them. A rare species of barking deer died two weeks ago after being hit by a train, only due to the negligence of the railway authorities," he added.

Mentioning the death of the deer a week ago, Assistant Conservator of Forests, Wildlife Management, and Nature Conservation Department Shyamal Kumar Mitra said, "There were scars on the body of the deer indicating its injury from being hit by the train. If the speed limit was lower, the deer would have lived."

However, Firoz Gulzar, senior deputy assistant engineer, Bangladesh Railways in Sreemangal told this correspondent, "We have not received any letter from the Ministry of Railways yet. No such letter came from our local office either."

"After receiving the approval, trials will be run with the new engines and reduced speed limit under the direction of the higher authorities. Only then, a decision can be made," he added.

At least 35 wild animals were killed in train accidents and many were injured in the last five years in Lawachara National Park, according to a document of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The national park is home to 167 species of trees, 59 reptile species, 246 bird species, 20 mammal species, and 22 amphibian species.

Meanwhile, a group of rights activists formed a human chain in Kamalganj, yesterday urging the government to take immediate steps to reduce train speed to 20km per hour inside the forest.


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