Bhubaneswar: India, it appears, is on the throes of an increasing conflict between its people and wild animals. And this seems to be an ongoing process. The recent unintentional but grisly and gruesome death of a pregnant elephant in Kerala has brought this ever present conflict into forefront.
It is a common practice in agricultural areas among the farmers of putting firecrackers in food items, sometimes even poisoning them or laying live wires to keep the wild animals, especially boars at bay and protect their crops.But the peace loving elephants often fall into these traps and get killed.
In Odisha, there are many more reasons for the deaths of elephants.
A whopping 119 elephants have died due to electrocution alone in past 10 years; the State Forest and Environment Minister Bikram Keshari Arukha informed in the State assembly last year responding to a written question. He even listed out the various steps taken to check these electrocution deaths. But according to wildlife experts, the actions are insignificant given the magnitude of wildlife loss.
Talking to Ommcom News, wildlife activist and a well known environmentalist Biswajit Mohanty said: “In Odisha, the threats are identified and the litigation measures are also identified but the forest department officials are yet to work concretely on it. In October 2018, 7 elephants got electrocuted due to sagging wires but no official was duly punished. Only one contractual junior engineer got arrested who got immediate bail also. So, the actions taken against wildlife and energy department officials are mere eyewash. In the absence of stringent punishment, the lapses occur and the elephants pay the price with their lives.”
He explained, “There are rules prescribed for the cable’s height of different power, but at many places in the forest area they are seen sagging. There should be insulated overhead cables but due to the callous attitude of the officials, the elephants get electrocuted when they come in contact with those high power sagging lines.”
Live Wires Laid To Trap Boars
It is not uncommon for farmers across India to target wild animals that poach crops, but it seen that they often lay down live wires deep inside the forests to keep wild animals at bay.
These live wire trapping laid for boars and other animals often lead to deaths of these pachyderms. “To stop that, Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker (ELCB) was recommended in 2010 but it is yet to be taken up by the electricity departments owing to its huge cost,” said Biswajit Mohanty.
When the moment you lay live wire trap, the electricity will snap which will save accidental deaths of many wild animals and even humans in some cases if ELCB is installed.
The third reason for elephant deaths railway tracks. They continue to be death traps for the pachyderms in the State. In November 2018, it was reported that 24 elephants died in eight years due to train hit.
Biswajit Mohanty said, “Speed trains, and increased frequency of these trains have increased the deaths. There should be increased alertness by the railway authorities, speed must be restricted in elephant corridors, and night watches at vulnerable spots to avoid the accidental deaths of the elephants.”
Though there are many provisions led down by the government, few are actually executed and the deaths continue.
Fourthly, the elephant corridors and habitats have been disrupted by stone quarries, mines and crusher. According to Biswajit Mohanty, “Powerful mining and stone quarry Mafia has resorted to illegal activities and carry out blasts even at night. The elephants get terrified with the untimely blasts which restricts their movement and they stray towards human habitats.Last year, the human kill in Odisha was highest 114 and this is the main reason behind the killings.”
He said, “14 identified elephant corridors are present in Odisha and govt has spent crores for improving them but are not legally notifying them. It is now under the protection of NGT stay order or else it would have been diverted into many more mining activities.”
This burgeoning man-animal conflict across the country’s forest pockets, has two sides. Forest edge communities are rightfully concerned about their lives, their crops and their livestock, which they say are under threat from wild animals, and individuals and groups involved in nature and wildlife conservation are very concerned that hundreds of environment, forest and wildlife clearances have been given to projects which is actually acting doom for the wildlife.
It is necessary for every nation to develop, but before diverting forest land for development projects, there should be measures taken to ensure survival of wildlife..