The artificial intelligence (AI)-based monitoring system to avoid elephants getting hit by moving trains on railway tracks passing through forests in Coimbatore district will be ready in a month.
Out of the 12 e-surveillance towers that are required for the project, which is being implemented in Madukkarai forest of the Coimbatore Forest Division, works of five have been completed, according to the officials. Supriya Sahu, Additional Chief Secretary, Environment, Climate Change and Forest, Tamil Nadu, inspected the works on August 10, during which technicians involved in the works demonstrated her the early warning system.
“The project is in its final stages of completion. Railways have also completed a fantastic underpass for elephants,” Ms. Sahu, who also visited the elephant underpass built by the Southern Railways, said in a post on X (formerly Twitter)
The 12 towers required for the AI-based early warning system are coming up on ‘A’ and ‘B’ railway lines that pass through Solakkarai reserve forest of Madukkarai range.
“Works of all the five towers in the ‘A’ line have been completed. Fibre-optic cables will link these e-surveillance towers and the control room. The system will generate a warning when an elephant comes into its surveillance radar,” explained S. Ramasubramanian, Conservator of Forests and Field Director of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, about the project that is being implemented at a cost of ₹ 7.24 crore.
According to the Forest Department, 11 elephants were killed in six train collisions in the two railway lines linking Coimbatore and Palakkad from 2008 to 2022. Out of the six accidents, five were recorded inside the reserve forest.
As per assessments made by the Department, a total of 13 km of A and B railway lines together is vulnerable to accidents involving trains and elephants. This stretch was revisited and optimised to 10.25 km.
Considering the budget constraints, the AI-based warning system will be installed in the highly vulnerable area of 7.05 km, that is 2.9 km in A line and 4.15 km in B line, in the first phase. The system will be implemented in the remaining vulnerable area of 3.2 km in the second phase. After the completion of the work, the AI-based system will detect elephant movement and send alerts to Forest Department officials and loco pilots.
At present, a total of 19 field staff patrol the vulnerable area round the clock in different shifts. According to the Department, on an average, three accidents are prevented by the staff a day. Besides this, a WhatsApp group comprising Railway and Forest Department officials from Kerala and Tamil Nadu share details of elephant movements.
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