The Tamil Nadu Forest Department is planning to deploy an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system to prevent the death of elephants due to train accidents on the tracks between Madukkarai and Walayar in the Coimbatore district. Seven crore rupees have been allocated for the project. The Forest Department has already started tenders for setting up AI systems in the sector. The last date for submission of proposals is September 8.
Two railway lines pass through the Madukkarai forest range between Madhukkarai and Walayar. The distance of one stretch is 1.8 km and the other is 2.8 km. Both tracks have several access points to Elephant Crossing. A 2021 RTI reply from Southern Railway revealed that eight wild elephants had died in train accidents between Kanjikode and Madukkarai stations alone in the last five years.
A detailed survey conducted by the Tamil Nadu Forestry Department along with the Railways Department identified 13 km of track where elephants were most vulnerable, based on the frequency of elephant crossing. The proposed AI system to be installed on this stretch is intended to issue elephant crossing warnings. According to the department officials, the problem areas would be identified into three zones. The 50 m area from the centre to the track will be the red zone, the next 50m will be the orange zone and a further 50m will be the yellow zone.
An audible warning device (horn) and a warning light would be installed at all sensor towers and in the console room. If the elephant enters the yellow area, an alert will be generated in the console room and the message will be sent to the rangers. Alerts and messages will be sent to rangers, wardens, forest officials and station masters when elephants cross the Orange Zone.
If the elephant enters the Red Zone, an alert will be sent to the District Ranger and Railway Service Engineers, who will inform the locomotive driver. The details of the elephant and its distance from the track will be shown to the engine driver. A senior officer of the forest department told IANS that after the tender is awarded, work will commence within two months