Sri Lanka: In a bid to prevent train-elephant collisions, the Railways Department is planning to install electronic sensor devices which will help detect the presence of elephants and other animals on railway tracks thus sending a warning signal to the train driver.
This comes in the wake of several Elephant deaths in recent times and train derailments due to collisions with elephants with the most recent incident happening yesterday where two elephants died and a train derailed in separate incidents.
A wild elephant was killed and another critically injured when they collided with the night mail train travelling from Colombo to Kankesanthurai in Galgamuwa in the wee hours of yesterday.
Another wild elephant was killed when it collided with a train plying to Batticaloa from Colombo at around 1 am yesterday morning. The Batticaloa bound train derailed after striking the elephant in the Palugasweva area. The General Manager of the Railway Department Dilantha Fernando yesterday said plans are afoot to install sensor devices at identified places in order to prevent further accidents involving trains and elephants.
He said such devices will be able to detect the presence of elephants or other animals on railway tracks, and send a warning signal to the driver.
The installation will take place as a part of a special programme undertaken by Sri Lanka Railways in collaboration with the Wildlife and Conservation Department.
According to General Manager Fernando, Transport Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva has given instructions to the Railway Department to take immediate action to prevent elephant-train collisions.
Fernando also said that this special programme will cost Rs.100 million since a sensor device will cost around Rs. 1 million. “The project will take around eight months to complete,” he also said.
“The Minister has promised us to table a Cabinet proposal requesting funds for this project. We are positive about receiving a grant for this project from the Asian Development Bank. Either way, we are going to start this project with whatever the funds available, local or foreign, as soon as the Committee which was appointed to inquire into this matter submits its report to the Minister,” Fernando also said.
Fernando observed that frequent elephant-train collisions is a serious matter, and said that the Railway Department will take every measure to prevent the unfortunate situation.
Fernando also said that an inquiry is underway at Department level at present with regards to recent elephant-train collision incidents. “The Department is yet to receive the report of the said inquiry,” he added.
Asked if slowing down the trains in identified areas where such occurrences are common is one such measure, Fernando said that such a step may not drastically affect the train schedule. While agreeing that the train crew members should be more sensitive to the protection of these animals, Fernando said that the Wildlife Department is conducting programmes to raise awareness among the train workers.
Meanwhile, Department of Wildlife and Conservation Director General G.C. Sooriyabandara said that the Wildlife Department is to work together with the Railway Department regarding this special programme to prevent train-elephant collisions.
According to Sooriyabandara, approximately 220 or more elephant deaths have been recorded during 2018 among which around 11 deaths have been elephant-train collisions with the latest being two more wild elephant deaths caused by a train-elephant collision reported from the Ambanpola and Palugaswewa areas.
Meanwhile, a Transportation Ministry release states that the Committee appointed to make recommendations to prevent elephant-train collisions has made five recommendations which will be presented to the Transport Minister next Thursday (25).
According to the statement, the Committee has recommended the clearing of shrubs in an area up to 30 metres on either side of the railway tracks, enforcing train speed limits, building paths (overpasses and underpasses) for elephant crossings at multiple locations, removal of obstructions along elephant crossings at locations with bridges and erecting electric fences at places where elephants enter.