On Thursday the Supreme Court ordered that 27 resorts on the Nilgiris elephant corridor be shut within 48 hours. The move has been welcomed by wildlife activists and is part of a long journey towards addressing the issues plaguing elephant corridors across the country, including in the Nilgiris biosphere. In the case of the Nilgiris elephant corridor, it is only in 2010, under pressure from the Madras High Court, on the basis of a PIL, that the state government notified the corridor.
This is emblematic of the lethargic role played by governments across India in protecting natural resources. By allowing more constructions in the sensitive regions, the governments have ensured an increase in man-animal conflict that has left a bloody trail. The forests are in fact protected and maintained by the elephants. When their natural habitat is degraded, the animal population comes under stress and the forests are harmed further.
Elephant corridors across the country have become more and more fragmented over the years, putting the lives and habitats of the mighty animal at risk. This risk —entirely created by mindless human expansion—is increased when the animals stray into human settlements and ‘wreak havoc’. It is too late to undo the entirety of the mess humanity has created with regards to the environment. However, failing to act effectively in this day and age is an offence that our children and their children will not thank us for.
Unfortunately, while in the case of Tamil Nadu, the state government finally acted on the HC’s prodding, and the district collector on the SC’s advice did produce a report on encroachments (the basis for the closure order), there is no doubt that the administration has dawdled as violators had a field day. Meanwhile, even in April, when hearing the matter, the SC expressed shock that despite the Centre stating that there were 27 critical elephant corridors in 22 states, 13 failed to even file their response. Apathy and denial will only lead to destruction.