Forest dept to explore tech use to prevent jumbo deaths
Kolkata: Concerned over the death of elephants, particularly on the railway tracks in North Bengal, the state Forest department will hold a workshop at Chalsa on November 16 and 17, to explore technology that can be adopted to prevent such deaths.
"There are a number of technologies that are presently available to track the movement of jumbos in the forest areas. But calibrating them has been the challenge. The workshop will deliberate upon and showcase the various technologies and at the same time, there will be demonstrations on the calibration aspect too," said Ravi Kant Sinha, the chief wildlife warden of the state.
It may be mentioned that IIT Delhi has come up with a seismic sensor technology that will give a vibratory signal about the pachyderms' movement near rail tracks, once fitted. A message would be sent to the nearest station master and the driver of trains about to pass through the area, so that they remain alert.
"There are some other technologies involving CCTV surveillance and sending alerts through SMS to the train driver that will be showcased at the two day workshop," added Sinha. The railway tracks between Siliguri and Alipurduar, stretching close to 165 km, have witnessed more than 60 elephants being killed by trains since 2004. The tracks pass through several forest areas, including the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, Jaldapara National Park and Buxa Tiger Reserve.
The conference is being organised by the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and the state Forest department. Senior officials from National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) will also be present at the two day conference, along with representatives of Railways, the Wildlife Institute of India, NGOs and local communities.
"There have been a handful of elephant deaths on national highways as well. We want to have a comprehensive technological use to curb jumbo deaths. So, we are involving every single stakeholder," a senior official of the state Forest department said.
Prodded by the Supreme Court to curb the death of elephants on railway tracks and by electrocution, it was 2013 when the ministry of Environment and Forests had proposed the use of technology. A pilot project to test the sensors is underway at the Rajaji National Park near Dehradun.
The issue of the death of the pachyderms has come up for discussion in several meetings between the state government and the Railways in particular. The South Eastern Railway has plans to restrict the speed of trains from 7 pm till 5 am in the morning at 70 km per hour in Kharagpur and Adra division that covers forest areas of Purulia, West Midnapore and Jhargram.