Southern Railway begins jumbo underpass works near Ettimadai in Coimbatore district | So Good News
The area where a wild elephant underpass is to be constructed in Coimbatore Forest Division. | Image credit: HANDOUT_E_MAIL
The Palakkad division of the Southern Railway began work on building an underpass for wild elephants on a railway line connecting Tamil Nadu and Kerala near Ettimadai in Coimbatore district.
Sources with the Palakkad division said that the preliminary work for the construction of an underpass for wild elephants started at the site ‘km 505A/400-500’ on the ‘B’ line [of the ‘A’ and ‘B’ twin single line]in a reserve forest area in Madukkarai forest area of Coimbatore Forest Division.
A second underpass will be built at the location ‘km 506/900 – 506A/00’, also on the ‘B’ line, after the first one is completed. The Railways has sanctioned ₹7.49 crore for the project, which is the first of its kind undertaken by Southern Railway.
Sources from the Palakkad division said that arrangements, including temporary beams and CC Cribs, have been taken for the first site. Two temporary girders are set up after the installation of the necessary materials. The railway line will be closed for 10 and a half hours for the work.
They said that the undercarriage of the enormous underpass, with a vertical clearance of six meters and a width of 18.3 metres, will be a cast-in-place concrete structure. The superstructure will be a composite beam which will be placed by side swing methodology, sources added.
On the Tamil Nadu side, the ‘A’ and ‘B’ lines run for 1.8 km and 2.8 km through the Solakarai forest layer in the Madukkarai forest area. Elephants moving between the Kerala and Tamil Nadu sides use the forest patch and adjacent agricultural fields, crossing railway lines.
According to the forest department, a total of 11 elephants have been killed in six major accidents since 2008 on the Tamil Nadu side alone.
A committee constituted by the Project Elephant Division of the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change to study elephant deaths on the tracks had reported that 24 pachyderms were killed in 19 accidents between Palakkad Junction and Madukkarai from 1978 to March 15, 2021. In November 2021, three elephants mowed down by a train on the ‘A’ line on the Tamil Nadu side. A female elephant was mowed down by a train near Kanjikode on the Kerala side in October this year.
Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu Forest Department is taking steps to install an artificial intelligence (AI)-based alert system to prevent elephant deaths for 13 km on the two single lines ‘A’ and ‘B’.