Southern Rly. to construct underpasses to prevent elephant deaths between T.N., Kerala

Railway officials held discussions with a software firm in Coimbatore to develop solutions that could give warning to loco pilots on elephant movement on tracks.

Railway officials held discussions with a software firm in Coimbatore to develop solutions that could give warning to loco pilots on elephant movement on tracks.

The Southern Railway on Friday informed the Madras High Court that 24 elephants had died on the railway tracks between Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and Palakkad in Kerala from 1978 to 2021 and hence it had taken elaborate measures including proposed construction of two underpasses at a cost of ₹7.49 crore to prevent such deaths.

In a report filed before Justices V. Bharathidasan and N. Sathish Kumar, who were seized of a 2018 writ petition on the issue, the railway administration said the General Manager of Southern Railway had forwarded a proposal to the Railway Board on December 16 to construct the two underpasses across the railway tracks in Tamil Nadu.

Southern Railway counsel P.T. Ramkumar said 12 elephants (including five calves) had died in 10 railway track accidents that took place in Kerala since 2002 and that an equal number of elephants had died on the Tamil Nadu side in nine accidents since 1978. Hence, the railway administration had imposed speed restrictions for the trains.

Further, the Southern Railway was planning to introduce Intrusion Deduction System by laying optic fibre cables along the railway tracks so that movement of elephants could be detected through acoustic sensors. It would be introduced after studying trials to be conducted by North East Frontier Railway in Alipurduar Division, he said.

The railway officials also held discussions with a private software firm in Coimbatore on January 13 to develop modern technological solutions that could give prior warning to loco pilots regarding elephant movement on the railway tracks through thermal or infrared sensors.

However, an audio alarm system to chase the elephants away from railway tracks had already been developed and installed at a few locations on December 28. It used solar power to make sounds of honeybees or a roaring tiger to keep the elephants away from sunset to sunrise. It would be installed in other locations depending upon its efficacy, he added.

Mr. Ramkumar also apprised the court of other measures such as clearing of vegetation near the tracks to provide a clear view to the loco pilots, widening of the earth cutting along the tracks so that elephants could have enough space to move away on sighting speeding trains and construction of ramps at vantage points to prevent fatal accidents.

Stating that solar fencing along the tracks had proved to be an effective solution in Kerala, the counsel said some fences were damaged by the elephants. However, now the railways as well as the Kerala forest department had called for tenders to install hanging solar fences at important stretches. Similar fences would be installed in Tamil Nadu too, he said.

The railway administration suggested that the forest departments in Kerala and Tamil Nadu could conduct a joint survey to identify the actual population of elephants and fix radio collars on the animals as was done in Similipal Tiger Reserve in Odisha. It also suggested erection of additional watch towers, deployment of elephant watchers and so on.

After hearing him at length, the judges adjourned the case to February 25 for the Tamil Nadu forest department to respond to the suggestions made by the Southern Railway.

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Printable version | May 16, 2022 3:08:32 pm |