There is a new ray of hope for jumbos, courtesy the infra red technique. Electronic solution is in the offing to stop elephant deaths on railway tracks by speeding trains. The pilot project of e-tagging jumbos is being developed jointly by WII and IIT Delhi. The efficacy of the project will be tested in Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand this month.
The pilot project comes as an outcome of the decision taken in high level meeting between Environment and Railway Ministry in January this year. The meeting had been called after five pachyderms were killed being hit by the speeding Coromandal Express in Odisha on December 30, 2012. Several elephants have been killed on rail tracks in West Bengal too in recent years.
According to AM Singh, Director, Project Elephant under MoEF, the technique is aimed to forewarn the rail driver through infra red signals emitted from the e-collars. He pointed out that the Railway officials have been harping that the drivers need to be informed about 15 minutes in advance on the movement of elephants as superfast speeding trains take some time to slow down.
The movement of electronically tagged elephants would be monitored by wildlife and forest staff who in turn will warn nearest railway control room in time to enable them to avoid accident, he said. Rajaji National Park, being close to Delhi, would be cost effective in terms of expenses and logistics, to try out the project, he added.
Later, a list of vulnerable patches for wildlife would be drawn and conveyed to the Railways to enable them to give directions for trains to slow down their speed in these patches in the normal course, he said.
Biswajit Mohanty, Member of National Board For Wildlife (NBWL), pointed out that it is difficult to e-tag each and every elephant that may come near the track. He pointed out that the train that mowed down the elephants in Odisha was moving at a speed of nearly 100 km per hour. The impact of the collision was so severe that a mature foetus was pushed out of the womb of a female elephant. This occurred, despite the fact that the Indian Railways itself has put up at least 10 display boards,
indicating it as elephant corridor. Hence, speed control of trains while moving through such tracks is the only solution, he added.