Op-Ed: Odisha Needs A Fool-Proof Plan To Check Man-Animal Conflict

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: There are fresh reports of depredation caused by elephants in different parts of the state. The pachyderms have been destroying crops and damaging houses, triggering anger among the residents of affected areas. In the past there have also been cases of jumbos killing humans and vice-versa.

The truth is man-animal, especially man-elephant conflict, is on the rise in the state. While elephants and other wild animals have been raiding human habitations following the destruction of their own habitat we also have instances of elephants being killed due to sheer negligence of authorities. In October last year seven elephants including a tusker, five females and a calf were electrocuted after coming in contact with a low hanging live wire near Kamalanga village in Dhenkanal district, about 100 kms from the capital city, in what was described as one of the biggest wildlife tragedies in the state.

The 11-KV line drawn for the construction of a railway bridge at Kamlanga, about 5 kms from National Highway 55, was hanging as low as just six feet from ground level though the mandatory height of such wires in areas where elephant movement is reported should be 17 feet above the ground. The temporary lines were laid with the permission of the energy department.

Odisha, which had 1976 elephants when the last census was conducted in 2017, has been reporting cases of jumbo deaths due to electrocution with alarming frequency. Dhenkanal district itself had reported the death of three elephants including two females in June, 2017. Part of a bigger herd the animals had come in contract with high tension wires in Borpada forest on the outskirts of Dhenkanal town.

Statistics show that 168 elephants have been electrocuted in the state in the last 18 years, the toll being the highest in 2010-11 when 18 were killed. Significantly half of these were cases of deliberate electrocution implying that either poachers or vengeful villagers, whose crops had been destroyed by the pachyderms, wilfully pulled down live wires to make them fall in the path of the passing herds.

Cases of elephant poaching and their death in accidents continue to be a major cause of worry for the authorities. Sometime ago four elephants including a tusker and a calf were run over by a speeding train in Jharsuguda district in an incident that brought back memories of a similar tragedy at Rambha in Ganjam district in 2012.

Odisha has also witnessed cases of wild bears killing people and angry mobs cudgelling bears to death. Such incidents have been reported from Keonjhar, Ganjam and Nabarangpur districts. Wildlife experts have blamed wanton destruction of forests, the natural habitat of animals, for such incidents. What is unfortunate is that the state government has failed to improve and revive eroded elephant corridors and create sufficient number of new ones to ensure proper movement of jumbos without causing any damage to human habitations. The problem lies both in planning and the execution of various schemes aimed at containing man-animal conflict.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)