Begin typing your search above and press return to search.

Lack of govt focus adds to man-elephant conflict in State


GUWAHATI, Dec 8 - The forest authorities seem completely clueless as elephant fatalities accruing from the raging human-elephant conflict have reached an unprecedented high in the State in the past two years.

The statistics are chilling. In 2017, over 60 elephants died in Assam, mostly from train-hits, poisoning and electrocution, and 43 of the fatalities took place during September-December. The human casualty, too, was high at over 40 for the year.

The situation apparently turned worse this year with 64 humans and 53 elephants losing their lives till December 4, 2018.

Conservationists feel that the absence of a focused approach by the forest department and the State government as a whole has added to the intensity of the conflict.

�Key issues, like deforestation and degradation of forests, must be addressed as a matter of policy. Growing fragmentation of elephant habitat and movement corridors are having a worsening impact on the conflict. The situation is akin to that of a disaster and responses should follow in that line, with resources procured accordingly from line departments concerned,� Dr Bibhab Talukdar, CEO of conservation NGO Aaranyak told The Assam Tribune.

More than national parks and wildlife sanctuaries which enjoy better protection, the shrinkage and fragmentation of the vast network of reserved forests that account for a substantial portion of elephant habitat is triggering a spurt in human-elephant conflicts.

�Elephant habitat in reserve forests is not only getting degraded and fragmented, but is also shrinking rapidly, causing drastic reduction in the carrying capacity. It is not surprising that the conflict is now being witnessed in areas previously not exposed to such conflict,� he said.

While forest officials point out that various measures, including compensation against crop loss and human death, have been adopted to reduce human-elephant conflict, conservationists stress that much more needs to be done to ease the situation.

�Plantation, better vigilance on elephant movement, quick dispensation of compensation, relocation of inhabitant on elephant corridors, etc., are on our agenda to ease the conflict,� a forest official said.

Conservationists, however, rue that the forest department hardly has any long-term plan at protecting the reserve forests and regenerating lost habitat.

�Protection of reserve forests and regeneration of lost habitat is a must. It is still possible to regenerate many of the lost habitats. The Bhairabkunda reserve forest, bordering Bhutan in Udalguri district, which was lost to encroachment and illegal logging, has been recovered to a large extent with active community participation. But the forest authorities are not keen in replicating such success stories,� conservationist Jayanta Kumar Das said, adding that even the Bhairabkunda forest restoration had now hit a roadblock due to the authorities� apathy.

According to Dr Talukdar, the issues merit urgent discussion at government level. �Raising ex gratia for human deaths is not the ultimate solution. The need of the hour is to avert the escalating conflict through time-bound steps on the ground,� he said.

In Assam, the conflict is more pronounced in Udalguri, Sonitpur, Nagaon, Karbi Anglong, Golaghat, Majuli and Goalpara districts.

Pointing out that in the past few years, natural movements of elephants have been greatly hampered resulting in increased conflict in agricultural areas, Dr Talukdar said the government should immediately introduce grain-to-grain replacement wherever elephants destroyed agricultural crops outside forest areas for reducing the animosity between human and elephant.

He added that a detailed plan of action should be prepared and implemented to reduce the incidence of �deliberate electrocution and poisoning which have been the main reasons of elephant deaths in the last two years.�

Similarly, a concerted effort with the Railways is a dire need to put a stop to the spurt in train-induced elephant deaths, he added.

Next Story