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Call for concerted effort to protect elephant corridors

By SIVASISH THAKUR

DIGBOI/MARGHERITA, July 4 - Saving the elephant corridors from destruction is a complex exercise as many of those fall outside forestland but conservationists believe that a concerted action by the civil authorities can effectively save these small but critical strips of landscape intrinsically linked to long-term well-being of the elephants.

Several forest officials and activists this correspondent talked to during a visit to Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve and two important corridors � Golai and Bogapani � were unanimous that both forest and civil authorities needed to work together to protect the corridors that often fell on patta land and cropland, and often bisected by roads or railway tracks.

The Bogapani corridor land comprises reserve forest, land leased to tea garden, and patta land. Major land use includes tea garden, forest, settlement and agriculture. The Golai corridor comprises patta land and reserve forest while tea garden, settlement, an IOC despatch terminal, and agriculture account for major land use.

�Corridors are narrow strips of land that often pass through cropland, tea gardens, etc., but the obstructions mostly come from permanent residential and commercial structures, industrial activities, concrete or barbed wire barriers, and trenches. The authorities need to do two things � ban structures, barriers and industrial activities in and around the corridors and convince the villagers to allow elephant movement through cropland by paying compensation whenever necessary. Land acquisition can also be an option,� a forest official said.

According to the official, with Project Elephant guidelines in place and strong directives by the Supreme Court and NGT, the civil authorities need to be proactive in securing the corridors falling in non-forestland.

Unfortunately, implementation of guidelines and even directives by the courts remains lax.

�NGT had made several important directives and observations in its December 8, 2017 judgement, asking the authorities concerned to take certain steps for facilitating unhindered elephant movement in the Golai and Bogapani corridors. Those have not been implemented,� wildlife biologist Dr Kashmira Kakati who had filed the NGT case said.

Echoing similar concerns, Devajit Moran, secretary of Green Bud Society, said the failure of the government authorities to check land-use changes in areas covered by elephant corridors had largely been responsible for the erosion of Golai and Bogapani corridors.

Right of Passage, an 800-page study released in August 2017 by experts and published by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) in collaboration with Project Elephant and the UK-based NGO Elephant Family, had identified and recorded details pertaining to 101 elephant corridors across India, including several in the Northeast.

While recommending individual conservation action plan outlines for fully securing each corridor, WTI called for strict prohibition of land use in tea gardens located in and around the Bogapani corridor area and removal of fencing along the fringes of Bogapani and Golai tea gardens in the corridor areas, besides regulating expansion and development activities near both the corridors.

Other suggestions included notification of the Bogapani corridor as Ecologically Fragile Land (EFL) for legal protection and to prevent further fragmentation. It recommended proper implementation of the corridor conservation plan in the IOC terminal land within the corridor as suggested by the forest department and experts.

A report by the Ministry of Environment and Forests titled �Gajah � Securing the Future for Elephants in India� in 2010 also asserted that long-term conservation of elephants could be done only by linking their fragmented habitats.

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Call for concerted effort to protect elephant corridors

DIGBOI/MARGHERITA, July 4 - Saving the elephant corridors from destruction is a complex exercise as many of those fall outside forestland but conservationists believe that a concerted action by the civil authorities can effectively save these small but critical strips of landscape intrinsically linked to long-term well-being of the elephants.

Several forest officials and activists this correspondent talked to during a visit to Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve and two important corridors � Golai and Bogapani � were unanimous that both forest and civil authorities needed to work together to protect the corridors that often fell on patta land and cropland, and often bisected by roads or railway tracks.

The Bogapani corridor land comprises reserve forest, land leased to tea garden, and patta land. Major land use includes tea garden, forest, settlement and agriculture. The Golai corridor comprises patta land and reserve forest while tea garden, settlement, an IOC despatch terminal, and agriculture account for major land use.

�Corridors are narrow strips of land that often pass through cropland, tea gardens, etc., but the obstructions mostly come from permanent residential and commercial structures, industrial activities, concrete or barbed wire barriers, and trenches. The authorities need to do two things � ban structures, barriers and industrial activities in and around the corridors and convince the villagers to allow elephant movement through cropland by paying compensation whenever necessary. Land acquisition can also be an option,� a forest official said.

According to the official, with Project Elephant guidelines in place and strong directives by the Supreme Court and NGT, the civil authorities need to be proactive in securing the corridors falling in non-forestland.

Unfortunately, implementation of guidelines and even directives by the courts remains lax.

�NGT had made several important directives and observations in its December 8, 2017 judgement, asking the authorities concerned to take certain steps for facilitating unhindered elephant movement in the Golai and Bogapani corridors. Those have not been implemented,� wildlife biologist Dr Kashmira Kakati who had filed the NGT case said.

Echoing similar concerns, Devajit Moran, secretary of Green Bud Society, said the failure of the government authorities to check land-use changes in areas covered by elephant corridors had largely been responsible for the erosion of Golai and Bogapani corridors.

Right of Passage, an 800-page study released in August 2017 by experts and published by Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) in collaboration with Project Elephant and the UK-based NGO Elephant Family, had identified and recorded details pertaining to 101 elephant corridors across India, including several in the Northeast.

While recommending individual conservation action plan outlines for fully securing each corridor, WTI called for strict prohibition of land use in tea gardens located in and around the Bogapani corridor area and removal of fencing along the fringes of Bogapani and Golai tea gardens in the corridor areas, besides regulating expansion and development activities near both the corridors.

Other suggestions included notification of the Bogapani corridor as Ecologically Fragile Land (EFL) for legal protection and to prevent further fragmentation. It recommended proper implementation of the corridor conservation plan in the IOC terminal land within the corridor as suggested by the forest department and experts.

A report by the Ministry of Environment and Forests titled �Gajah � Securing the Future for Elephants in India� in 2010 also asserted that long-term conservation of elephants could be done only by linking their fragmented habitats.

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