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Plan Bee

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This topic of “Plan Bee” is important from the perspective of the UPSC IAS Examination, which falls under General Studies Portion.

Introduction

The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) of India has implemented an innovative initiative known as ‘Plan Bee’ to prevent elephant casualties on railway tracks. This initiative has been recognized for its effectiveness in reducing the number of elephant deaths due to collisions with trains, a problem that has been prevalent in several parts of the country. This article aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the ‘Plan Bee’ initiative, discussing its implementation, effectiveness, and potential implications for wildlife conservation.

The Genesis of Plan Bee

The ‘Plan Bee’ initiative was adopted by the NFR in 2017 in response to the increasing number of elephant deaths on railway tracks. The initiative involves the use of a device that broadcasts the sound of swarming honeybees, a natural deterrent for elephants. The device, which costs about Rs 2,000, is installed at level crossings in areas prone to accidents involving elephants.

  • The first device was installed at a level crossing west of Guwahati, adjacent to the Rani Reserve Forest, a known elephant habitat.
  • The sound produced by the device can be heard up to 600 meters away, effectively keeping elephants at a safe distance from the railway tracks.
  • As of the latest reports, the NFR has installed 46 such devices at various vulnerable points.
  • The initiative was recognized with the ‘Best Innovation Award’ by the Indian Railways, further validating its effectiveness.

The Impact of Plan Bee

The ‘Plan Bee’ initiative has had a significant impact on reducing elephant casualties on railway tracks.

  • Between 2014 and 2016, 35 elephants were killed on railway tracks. The implementation of ‘Plan Bee’ has drastically reduced such incidents.
  • From 2013 to June 2019, a total of 67 elephants were knocked down in train-elephant collisions. However, through ‘Plan Bee’ and other measures, NFR has been able to save as many as 1014 elephants from 2014 to June 2019.
  • The initiative has been particularly effective in Assam, which is home to about 5620 elephants, and the Dooars area of North Bengal, which also has a significant elephant population.
  • The buzzing sound of the device has been tested on both domesticated and wild elephants, proving its effectiveness in deterring these animals from approaching the railway tracks.

Plan Bee: A Model for Wildlife Conservation

The ‘Plan Bee’ initiative serves as a model for innovative, cost-effective, and non-invasive methods for wildlife conservation. It demonstrates how understanding and leveraging the natural behaviors of animals can contribute to their protection.

  • The initiative is based on the natural aversion of elephants to the sound of swarming bees. This understanding has been used in other contexts as well, such as in African villages where ‘beehive fences’ are used to deter elephants from raiding crops.
  • The use of sound as a deterrent is non-invasive and does not harm the elephants or disrupt their natural behaviors.
  • The initiative also highlights the importance of local solutions to conservation challenges. The device used in ‘Plan Bee’ is relatively inexpensive and can be installed at multiple locations, making it a scalable solution.
  • The success of ‘Plan Bee’ underscores the potential for similar initiatives to address human-wildlife conflicts in other contexts and with other species.

Conclusion

The ‘Plan Bee’ initiative by the Northeast Frontier Railway is a testament to the power of innovative, locally-adapted solutions to conservation challenges. By leveraging the natural behaviors of elephants, the initiative has effectively reduced the number of elephant casualties on railway tracks. As human activities continue to encroach on wildlife habitats, initiatives like ‘Plan Bee’ offer a model for mitigating human-wildlife conflicts in a humane and non-invasive manner.

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