Plan Bee: How the Indian Railways is preventing elephant deaths on tracks
New Delhi, July 11: The Indian Railways' novel initiative 'Plan Bee' to prevent trains from hitting elephants crossing tracks has been a great success as the number of casualties has gone down drastically.
A number of cases have been reported from several parts of the country, where elephants have collided with trains at railway crossings. To prevent such incidents in future, the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) adopted 'Plan Bee' 2017.
It uses a device costing about Rs 2,000 which will be installed at level crossings at these accident prone areas. The device works by loudly broadcasting the buzz of swarming honeybees, audible up to 600 meters, a sound that would keep the elephants away. This is because the elephants have a natural fear of the perilous stings of the insects.
The first instrument was installed at a level crossing west of Guwahati on a track adjoining the Rani Reserve Forest, an elephant habitat. NFR now has 46 such devices installed at vulnerable points.
The simple yet effective technique has been recognised as the 'Best Innovation Award' by the Indian Railways. The prize comprises of a citation and a cash award of Rs 3 lakh.
In February this year, the then Minister of State(MoS) in the Ministry Of Environment, Forest And Climate Change, Mahesh Sharma told the Lok Sabha that a total of 373 elephants have died unnaturally in last three years all over India. Of them, 62 died due to train accidents, 226 died due to electrocution, 59 died due to poaching and 26 died due to poisoning.
As per the data made available by the government, despite the 62 cases of elephant deaths on railway tracks, only 13 cases have been registered against loco pilots so far, Assam (2) Odisha (5) and Kerala (6). There is no information regarding punishment to loco pilots by the Railways.
Villagers have been using "beehive fences" to scare away marauding elephants. When elephants touch the fences, bees inside boxes attached to the fences storm out angrily to defend their colonies.
Most elephants were killed by electric fences, poisoned or shot by locals angry at family members being killed or crops being destroyed, and accidents on railway lines cutting through migratory routes.
It is also common practice to use loud noise to scare away intrusive elephants. Noisemakers include firecrackers, pipe cannons, vehicle horns, shouts, and rifle-shots.
Meanwhile, to prevent elephants from being hit, Indian Railways has also imposed speed limit of 30 kmph to 50 kmph in several stretches of railway tracks across Northeast.