Bhubaneswar: Wildlife lovers have expressed shock and grief over the death of an adult male elephant at Mundali barrage (Cuttack), on September 24, after it was stranded for nearly 24 hours in a swollen Mahanadi river.
Raising concerns over this incident, noted Environment and Wildlife activist Biswajit Mohanty said apart from better crowd control and the absence of lead role by the forest department, the tragedies could have been averted had there been Elephant / Animal friendly ramps on both sides of the river bank near the barrage.
“We have observed that the trapped tusker made at least two attempts on that day to climb out of the river by walking to the end of the barrage spillway and walking up the shore towards a suitable slope to climb up. Unfortunately, for a length of more than 100 feet, there is a sharp straight and tall concrete wall to protect the river bank from scouring which prevented him from climbing,” said Mohanty.
Had there been a 8 feet concrete/stone ramp leading to the top of the embankment at that point the tusker could have climbed up. Building a ramp does not compromise the safety of the river bank and hence this measure can be considered as a mitigation plan. During floods, such incidents have happened in the past as elephants regularly cross the river some distance upstream of the Mundali barrage, Mohanty said.
On October 15, 2018, several elephants had been swept away at the same spot but fortunately none had died. It is not just elephants but cattle and other animals like bears, leopards, hynae or deer can also be swept away by flood waters while attempting crossing of the river, he added.
“Whenever elephants will be swept away in floods in the future they will land up at the barrages which is the first obstruction. So there is a need to provide some sort of mitigation step at this point to enable them to climb out of the river easily. Unfortunately, due to the high concrete straight walls at the barrage ends, they are not able to so. Besides, due to strong current flow they cannot walk upstream on the edge of the river from this point.”
The animal rights activist further said, “To prevent them from drowning we suggest construction of Elephant / Animal Friendly Ramps at the point where the barrage ends on either side of the Mahanadi river. Elephants and other animals can use these ramps to climb up the steep embankment of the river since the straight and high concrete wall at the barrage ends prevents them from accessing the river bank.”
“Similar ramps can be thought of also at Naraj barrage as well as other Barrages of the state where elephant river crossing is recorded like Samal Barrage on Brahmani river; Kanpur barrage on Baitarani river, etc. The Elephant/Animal Friendly Ramps can be similar to the ones constructed on the Rengali main canals. We have enclosed herewith a photograph of one such ramp that has been constructed near Kulei in Angul district.”
“We hope you shall take this up with the Water Resources Department who can do the needful mitigation measure as quickly as possible,” said Mohanty.