Ramakanta Biswas

The Odisha forest department on Wednesday submitted an affidavit in the Orissa High Court detailing the action plan for protection of elephants in the State.  

A bench comprising Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Murahari Sri Raman conducted the hearing in this case today.

During the hearing, Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) Manoj V. Nair filed the affidavit enclosing the ‘Comprehensive action plan for conservation of elephants and mitigation of human-elephant conflict in Odisha.’ 

Nair, who appeared online, explained that the report contains an executive summary along with action points under a ‘10-pillar strategy’.

The CCF took the court through the important aspects of the report which deals, inter alia, with interdepartmental coordination which in turns will require district level human-elephant conflict mitigation committees to be constituted under the chairmanship of the collector and having representatives of the superintendent of police and heads of relevant line departments and the DFOs being the member secretary.

Nair told the court that the aspect of ‘human-elephant conflict mitigation requires adoption of ‘zone-based approach’. Taking cue from the Karnataka Elephant taskforce, four broad zones namely- (Zone 1) Elephant conservation zone, (Zone 2 )elephant-human coexistence zone and (Zone 3) Conflict Mitigation zone and (Zone 4) Elephant removal or exclusion zone have been envisaged. 

He further stated that separate strategies have been worked out for ‘protection, enforcement and prosecution’ as well as improving elephant habitat, corridors and connectivity and people’s participation in education and awareness. 

In response to the concerns expressed by the counsel appearing for the party, Nair pointed out that the action plan also speaks of ‘Habitat management for increased productivity’ which would involve improving the elephant habitat, plantation of bamboo plants and preferred elephant food plants, water sources and other habitat improving measures apart from forest fire prevention and control.

Nair added that in order to tackle the increasing deaths of elephants due to electrocution, the action plan proposes to involve the electricity distribution companies (discoms) to provide solar fencing under the ‘Jana Surakhya Gaja Rakhya’ scheme.