By Ashutosh Mishra
Bhubaneswar: Notwithstanding steps to contain human-animal conflict in the state clashes continue to occur, often resulting in casualties and massive destruction of property. Recently two persons in Khurda district were killed in an elephant attack, triggering protests in the area with local residents blocking the nearby road and demanding compensation.
These pachyderms are also on the rampage in parts of Angul district where several houses have been damaged and standing crops destroyed. Such incidents are becoming increasingly common despite forest officials coming up with plans like Gajabandhu to check elephant menace. The plan, which was the outcome of a massive brainstorming session involving senior forest officials and wildlife experts, envisages incentives for people who will collect and provide information to the forest authorities about the movement of jumbos straying into human habitations.
The session which was held in Bhubaneswar a few months ago had also discussed steps like installation of CCTV cameras in the areas of elephant movement and setting up speed breakers on roads in elephant corridors. But the focus of the plan was on the involvement of local people in the effort to reduce the scale of man-elephant conflict.
While it may not be possible to put an end to this conflict immediately scaling it down has become imperative because casualties on both sides have been mounting. Between 2011-12 and 2017-18 at least 393 elephants have been killed in the state with most of them falling prey to poaching and electrocution by high-tension wires. There have been cases of deliberate electrocutions with vengeful victims of elephant raids pulling down wires and letting them fall in the path of pachyderms.
Elephants, too, have killed more than 300 persons during this period besides damaging 4,405 houses and crops spread over 69,071 acres. Following each case of death and depredation, the government has to meet compensation demands that put extra burden on the exchequer.
Over the years the forest department has come up with several plans to check man-elephant conflict but the problem seems far from ever. The problem, it seems, lies in the implementation of the plans. For example, the forest department at one point of time had identified at least 14 elephant corridors in the state to ensure the safe movement of elephants and to prevent them from straying into human habitations.
The elephant corridors identified for development included Badampahad-Dhobadhobi, Badampahad-Korida, Similipahad- Hadagarh-Kuladihi and Telkoi-Pallahada among others. The new corridors being worked upon were Deuli-Shuliapada, Maulabhanja-Jinjimala-Anantapur, Barpahad-Tarbha-Kantamal, Kotagarh-Chandrapur and Karlapat-Urladani. The corridors identified by the government were spread over an area of 870 sq km but their proper maintenance still remains a question. They will fail to serve their purpose unless care is taken to ensure that they have adequate food stock and water for the pachyderms which cover long areas in the forests daily.
The factors driving elephants out of their natural habitats are well known. They have also been discussed threadbare by experts who, over the years, have evolved several plans to contain man-elephant conflict. But if the problem persists the government needs to ensure that the plans are implemented honestly and effectively.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the 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)