In one of the jolliest reports in recent times, the forest department of Tamil Nadu has come up with a unique idea of using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to reduce elephant deaths due to train-related incidents like collisions on railway tracks. It is a well-known fact that every year a huge number of elephants succumb to injuries caused by accidents with speeding trains. As a matter of fact, after electrocution train hits are the second most common cause of unnatural deaths of elephants.
The state of Tamil Nadu has one of the highest elephant populations in the country due to which it has witnessed multiple ‘Gaja’ deaths on railway tracks for years now.
The planned AI system will be first used on two railway lines passing between Madhukkarai and Walayar in the Madukkarai forest range, where since 2008, 11 elephants have been reported to be killed by collisions with trains. A recce carried out by the forest officials designated a 13-kilometre area as the hotspot based on the frequency of elephant movement.
As per the officials of the TN forest department and Ministry of Railways, the vulnerable area of the elephant crossing will be divided into three zones. The first 50 metre area from the centre to the track will be the red zone, the next 50 metre will be under the orange zone and the subsequent 50 metre will form the yellow zone. An acoustic (hooter) alert and a luminous alert would be installed at all sensor towers and in the console room.
With the help of AI, if an elephant entered the yellow zone, an alert will be initiated in the console room and the message will be sent to the forest watchers. Further, if the elephant crosses the orange zone a message/ alert will be sent to the forest guards, watchers, forest range officers and railway station master on duty.
In rare situations when an elephant enters the red zone, along with the district forest officials’ alerts will be sent to divisional engineers of railways, who will intimate the loco pilot about the details of the elephant and its distance from the track as soon as the information is received.
As per Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav, 186 elephants were killed in accidents with trains in various parts of India between 2009-21. Although the current project is being launched on a smaller scale, an amount of Rs 7 crore has already been sanctioned for it and if AI proves to be effective in decreasing elephant deaths, the same is likely to be implemented in the other regions of the state and the entire country very soon.