Explore use of AI to prevent elephant deaths on railway tracks: NGT

Bench issues directions to Southern Railway, T.N., Kerala

Published - May 17, 2022 10:10 pm IST - CHENNAI

The Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal has directed the Southern Railway and the Forest Departments of Tamil Nadu and Kerala to explore the possibility of using Artificial Intelligence-based systems to prevent deaths of wild animals on railway tracks.

The Bench said the Railways and the States could explore the possibility of providing a system of alerting loco pilots of trains about the passage of elephants or other wild animals on railway lines so that they could reduce the speed of the train and avoid hitting the animals and causing deaths, to some extent.

The Tribunal further directed the Southern Railway and the two States to regularly convene meetings to discuss the methodologies to be adopted if the existing systems were not effective in preventing animal deaths on railway lines.

The directions came on an application filed by G. Arun Prasanna, of People for Cattle in India, citing a report published in The Hindu on July 2, 2020 on the gunning down of a female wild elephant near Mettupalayam by two farmers, and another article on November 28, 2011 regarding the deaths of two elephants while crossing the railway line in Madukkarai after being hit by the Mangalore-Chennai Express. The applicant sought an emergency response plan for attending to the elephants that are injured due to human-elephant conflict, and a monitoring committee of veterinarians and wildlife experts to monitor and prevent such conflicts.

The Southern Railway, in an affidavit, informed the Tribunal that it had a consultation with a company in Coimbatore to develop an AI-based system using Lidar technology to give a warning to loco drivers regarding elephant movement near the tracks. But it was found that the adoption of the technology was not feasible for the route. The Southern Railway was looking at engaging another company to develop some other methodology using AI that was experimented with in Pannimadai village, Coimbatore.

The Bench directed the Southern Railway, Tamil Nadu and Kerala to conduct regular awareness programmes for loco pilots and other staff working on mitigating elephant deaths. The Forest Departments were directed to create a team to interact with villagers in the fringe areas where there is a possibility of conflict between wild animals, especially elephants, and to educate them about the methodology they could adopt to drive the animals away. The Bench also directed the creation of a communication system between the villagers and such a team so that action to divert the elephants could be taken upon receipt of information.

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