Starting from Friday, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) will conduct four regional workshops for state forest departments (SFDs) of elephant reserves to train them on identification and ground-truthing for elephant corridors, an essential step being taken along with the mapping of such reserves.
There are 30 elephant reserves across India encompassing an area of 55,000 sq km. But 80 per cent of the elephants are outside the protected areas.
"With most of the elephants outside the elephant reserves, they come in contact with human beings and that gives rise to the human-elephant conflict (HEC) cases," said an official from the Ministry.
Besides those elephant reserves, there are other areas where the Ministry aims to focus on.
"Once the boundaries are rationalised, we will be able to find out which are the areas so that we can identify the places of conflict and avoid HEC incidences," the official said.
The Ministry constituted a committee for identification and ground-truthing of elephant corridors in April and the first meeting was held in July.
"The Committee finalised the parameters for identification of elephant corridors. Four regional workshops will be held with all elephant range states to train SFDs on identification and ground-truthing of the elephant corridors," said Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav.
The land use land cover mapping using GIS for 23 of the 30 elephant reserves has been completed and the Ministry has already received shapefiles from the states.
"We are following this up with the state FDs for the remaining. Thereafter mapping shall be done, and a final report prepared," Yadav told IANS.
The first regional consultative workshop starts on Friday for the northwest region - Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand - and the final would be held on October 18.
The other three regions are north-east, south and east-central, all places where the elephant population are distributed in India.
The structural and functionality of elephant corridor would be established with the exercise.
"So ultimately, we would get a final picture with maximum focus on elephant movement without any hindrance in the passage. Any kind of encroachments can happen, which can hinder the movement of elephants," the Ministry official said.
Most of the elephant reserves in India started getting notified since 2002 and over the two decades -- these reserves by themselves don't have any legal sanctity and are just notified -- there have been a lot of changes on the ground.
There are a total of 101 corridors, identified by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) in 2017 in their book "Right of Passage".
When the identification and ground-truthing were done in 2005, only 88 corridors were identified then, and they found a place in Gaja Task Force.
"By the time, WTI took up the exercise again, of the 88, seven were impaired but fortunately more corridors had come up. Now, those add up to 101. But unfortunately, not all corridors have got state department validation," an official involved in planning and training said.
"There are revenue lands, private lands and forest areas. We need to compare, what has changed between these two decades. The shapefile will help us delineate exact boundaries."
The target is to complete this exercise within two to three months, but the Ministry aims to end it latest by the end of the financial year.