The plan by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department to install artificial intelligence (AI) based warning system to prevent elephant fatalities on railway lines will cover a stretch of 13 km passing through Madukkarai forest range of Coimbatore Forest Division that has been identified as “vulnerable”.
The vulnerable section falls on the Tamil Nadu side of the twin single lines ‘A’ and ‘B’ between Palakkad junction in Kerala and Madukkarai in Tamil Nadu.
According to the Forest Department, A and B lines pass through the reserve forest for a length of 1.8 km and 2.8 km respectively in Madukkarai forest range in Tamil Nadu. “These tracks have numerous hotspots for elephant crossings that have resulted in six train collisions and resulted in death of 11 elephants since 2008,” says the request for proposal document issued by the Forest Department for the design, supply, installation and commissioning of AI-based system for preventing elephant deaths on railway tracks in Madukkarai forest range. The vulnerable stretch of 13 km was identified based on the frequency of elephant crossing.
The Department is looking for a modern, AI-driven, autonomous surveillance system that is suitable, sustainable and works round the clock. For the AI-based warning system, the Department has divided the vulnerable stretch into three zones from the centre of the railway track -- about 50 m on either side as red zone, the next 50 m as orange zone and the third 50 m as yellow zone.
As per the requirement, the system should trigger an alert when an elephant enters the yellow zone which shall be communicated to track watchers and forest guard. When the elephant enters the orange zone, an alert should be sent to the beat forest guard, forester and the forest range officer or station master concerned. When the animal enters the red zone, alarm should be sent to all level forest officials upto District Forest Officer and upto Divisional Engineer in railway side and through them to the loco pilots with details of the location and the distance from the track.
Railway enthusiast and RTI activist R. Pandiyaraja, who welcomed the efforts being taken by the Tamil Nadu Forest Department, wanted similar steps to be taken by the Kerala Forest Department on railway lines between Walayar and Kanjikode stations in Kerala side as the stretch is equally vulnerable.
As a report by a committee constituted by the Project Elephant Division of the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change, a total 24 elephants were killed in 19 accidents between Palakkad junction and Madukkarai from 1978 to March 15, 2021. After the submission of the report, three elephants were mowed down by a train on ‘A’ line in Tamil Nadu side in November 2021.