Animals living in the Lawachhara National Park continue to become victim of speeding vehicles and trains as they ply the Sreemangal-Kamalganj road and Dhaka-Sylhet rail tracks inside the forest, defying a 20km speed limit. PHOTO: STAR

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Animals living in the Lawachhara National Park continue to become victim of speeding vehicles and trains as they ply the Sreemangal-Kamalganj road and Dhaka-Sylhet rail tracks inside the forest, defying a 20km speed limit. PHOTO: STAR

Lawachhara National Park is an important sanctuary, buzzing with rare and endangered animals. However, its wildlife is facing a significant challenge when it comes to co-existing with the railway and regional road that passes through it.

 The 1,250-hectare forest is home to numerous species of animals including owls, monkeys, pythons, wild fowl, pangolins, barking deer, fishing cats, and wild boars.

According to the wildlife conservation department, over 50 animals fall victim to fatal railway and road accidents annually.

However, local conservationists claim the number to be much higher in reality.

The accidents are mostly caused on Sreemangal-Kamalganj road and Dhaka-Sylhet railway park pass. The wildlife in the area is also disrupted due to the noise pollution caused by speeding trains and vehicles.

For example, on May 20, Sylhet-bound Udayan Express met with an accident after a tree fell in the park. The subsequent rescue and public gathering caused a lot of disruption to the wildlife movement.

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, former divisional forest officer, sent a letter to the forest conservator on November 14, 2021, proposing the maximum train speed be reduced to 20km per hour while crossing the 7.5km stretch of park to protect the wildlife of the area.

Following the same proposal, he issued another letter to the conservator of Forests, Wildlife and Nature Reserve on February 27 last year, providing a rationale for reducing the speed of trains.

Meanwhile, another letter was sent from the forest ministry to the railway ministry, urging them to take necessary measures in this regard.

On January 29, a letter signed by Taufiq Imam, deputy secretary (additional duties) of the railway ministry 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.

Sreemangal stationmaster Shakhawat Hossain said the forest department has given a letter regarding the speed limit, but they have not received a letter from the railway authorities yet.

Contacted, railway officials, seeking anonymity, said as the area has small slopes and hills, the train will not be able to ply up the slopes if the speed is so low.

On March 3, 2022, the wildlife department organised a campaign to limit the speed of vehicles on the Sreemangal-Kamalganj road to 20km per hour.

However, traffic movement within the forest still continues at high speed, putting wild animals at risk.

Sohel Shyam, one of the founders of Stand for Our Endangered Wildlife, a voluntary organisation, said, if the 20km per hour speed limit is maintained, many animals will be saved.

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