Why families of this Odisha village are spending sleepless nights on trees

Sonepur: While loss of habitats have forced the elephants to wander away from forests and enter human settlements leading to widespread damage, recent incidents show a spurt in deaths of elephants in Odisha pointing towards the severity of man-animal conflict. But it cannot become more severe than this when fear of elephants forces several families of a village to spend sleepless nights on trees.

According to sources, with paddy harvest season underway, nearly 12 to 14 families of Pudamal village under Ullunda forest range of the district are being forced to take shelter on trees in fear of the wandering pachyderms near their village.

Speaking on the plight of the villagers, Jaunrabhaunra GP Ex-Sarpanch Trinath Bhoi says, “Every year these villagers build their mud-thatched houses and grow crops but as always elephants who come to graze paddy crops in the nearby farmlands enter the village and destroy their homes.”

“As soon as the day ends, be it women or children, we all forget about everything and climb up the trees to spend the night. At times we are also forced to run for trees during the day when the elephants suddenly enter our area,” said Ghasi Munda, a local resident.

Locals allege that government assistance has been a day dream for them despite the fact that they have been suffering the brunt of this situation for past several years.

“We fear that someday our family members may die falling from the trees if this situation keeps on going. If the administration does not listen to our plight we might have to go away and leave our ancestral village forever,” said Munda.

However, Sonepur Collector Madhusudan Mishra said the PD, DRDA had already made a ground zero assessment of the situation and assured that the villagers will be provided with all kinds of assistance.

“We had registered a report that the elephants had destroyed several houses in the area. So we are keeping in touch with the forest department to make sure that elephants move in their natural paths away from the human settlements to minimise man animal conflicts. As far the beneficiaries are concerned we have decided to provide them pucca houses during the next financial year,” said the collector.