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Suryakant Jena

Bhubaneswar: As Odisha is slowly turning into a graveyard for elephants with record number of jumbo fatalities during the last decade owing to loss of habitat, man-animal conflict among others, the State government is planning to deploy 'Gaja Bandhu' volunteers for safety and security of pachyderms.

Under the new plan, the Forest department has planned to engage the local public to keep tab on the movement of the elephants in their localities. A person on such duty would be identified as Gaja Bandhu and would be entitled to incentives.

Apart from this, the government has also decided to install CCTV cameras, speed breakers, rumblers at selected elephant movement zones in designated corridors. As many as 65 such sensitive spots have been identified. Likewise, the State Forest and Environment department has asked the NHAI authorities to construct underpass and overpass for elephants in 19 locations on Sambalpur-Angul road and Athagarh region.

To reduce man-animal conflicts caused by stray elephants, the Forest department has also proposed installation of radio collars on them to track their movements.

We have planned to implement Gaja Bandhu scheme so that people living near the forests can inform us in advance about the movement of elephants near the periphery of human settlements and also earn some incentives from us.

Statistics show that in last six years, Odisha has seen a spurt in deaths of elephants due to road and rail accidents. As many as 5 elephants have lost their lives due to road mishaps while 22 jumbos have died due to railway accidents.

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