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Rapid deforestation fuelling man-elephant conflict

By Correspondent

KALAIGAON, May 8 � At a time when most of the forests of Udalguri district have been encroached by human settlement, destroying all the existing habitats and elephant corridors, including historic Samran elephant corridor along the Indo-Bhutan international border, a few positive steps have been taken by Udalguri district administration headed by deputy commissioner SS Meenakshi Sundarm and Bankim Sarma, DFO of Dhansiri Forest Division, Udalguri to end the so-called man-elephant conflict in the district.

A district-based awareness meeting on so-called man-elephant conflict was arranged at Panery forest office premises on May 5 with a day-long programme. Rihan Daimari, Minister PHE, Santis Kunjur, EM, BTC, Mitha Ram Basumatari, EM, BTC, Kamali Basumatari, MLA, Paneri, Pradip Dimari, MCLA, BTC, PK Mahanta, ADC, Udalguri, Bankim Sarma, DFO, Udalguri and Dr Anupam Sarma, coordinator, WWF Landscape Programme, Assam attended the meeting. Representatives of several organisations, including Green Valley Forest and Wildlife Protection Society also attended the meeting, besides several distinguished mediapersons and thousands of people.

Bankim Sarma in his welcome speech explained about the immediate need for taking measures to end the man-elephant conflict in the district causing death of 31 people by wild elephants during 2002 to 2009. He also said that the number of deaths were alarming in the sense that it also caused the deaths of more than 12 wild elephants during 2007 to 2009 either by electrocution and poisoning, excluding two wild elephants which were seriously injured but treated by the forest department. According to him 12 persons had been killed by wild elephants during the year 2009. Moreover, 248 people had either been injured or lost their houses and property during the said period.

According to him most of the people had been killed for venturing into forests for collecting firewood. In his inaugural speech Rihan Daimari remarked that rapid deforestation had caused the conflict not only in Udalguri, but also in other districts of Assam. He disclosed that the Government of Assam would soon implement a few new schemes for the restoration and conservation of existing forests areas, including the elephant corridors. The Minister requested the people not to disturb the wild elephants by construction electric fencing or by poisoning. He thanked the DC and DFO of Udalguri for immediate arrangement of ex-gratia payment of Rs 40,000 each of the kith and kin of the killed people. He also said that IAY houses had also been provided to the victims.

Kamali Basumatari, MLA, Paneri constituency also addressed the meeting saying that lack of food had compelled wild elephants to come down to the villages in search of food. Dr Anupam Sarma of WWF India while addressing the gathering informed about the role played by WWF. He assured that they would launch a few programmes in Udalguri district very soon for the restoration of man-elephant relation. He said that until and unless forest areas were reserved for wild elephants, the conflict would continue. Mitha Ram Basumatari, EM, BTC also addressed the meeting. The Minister and other VIPs distributed valuable local tree saplings along with cheques worth Rs 40,000 each to the kith and kin of 49 people killed. Moreover, ex-gratia grant of Rs 2000 to Rs 5000 were also paid to 249 people. Depredated people of Udalguri have expressed happiness at the government arrangements and vowed to protect wild elephants in the coming days.

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