State to raise height of electric wires to save elephants

Bhubaneswar: With frequent cases of elephants being electrocuted, the state government on Friday decided to spend Rs 20 crore from the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management funds for raising the height of electric wires passing through elephant corridors.

This was decided at a meeting of Elephant Management Plan chaired by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who also holds the forest and environment portfolio.

A joint monitoring committee comprising officials of forest and environment and energy departments had been set up to ensure that no elephant was killed due to electrocution.

Patnaik asked the forest and environment department to hand over Rs 20 crore to energy department for executing the work of increasing the height of electric wires.

With an estimated 10 elephants falling prey to the poachers every year, the chief minister issued directions to take strong action against poachers. "The meeting also decided to impart special training to forest officials for protection of elephants," a senior official said.

The population of elephants has increased from 1827 in 1999 to 1862 in 2010 in the state and elephants were seen in 28 of the 30 districts of the state, the officials said.

The state government had earlier identified 14 elephant corridors and nine more places have been located where elephants roam round. An action plan for the elephant corridors were being prepared for better management of the big animals, a senior official said.

Meanwhile, the state government had increased the exgratia from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2 lakh for the families whose kins were killed by elephants.

Similarly, compensation amount for crop damage by elephants had also gone up, said principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) P N Padhi.