There’s no stopping the jumbos here
By Prasanjeet Sarkar | Published: 03rd December 2012 11:31 AM |
Aswal Kerketta and Bhupati Sahu were returning home on Monday night when they had a close shave, but not before a herd of marauding elephants mangled their motorcycles at a forest route near Kacharu in Kuanrmunda block here.
The same herd of 15 elephants was seen holed up at Kacharu till Wednesday evening. The herd was pushed into Kuanrmunda block on September 21, 2010 from Bisra block after it strayed from Jharkhand forest. Ever since, the animals have been making life miserable for people of the forested pockets here.
Kuanrmunda ranger BK Ghadei said in the absence of long forest stretch, the elephants are not finding an escape route, making it a hunting ground.
Amid shrinking elephant habitats, villagers of bordering pockets of Sundargarh district are perennially exposed to elephant attacks, often resulting in human casualties. Ravaging standing crops and destroying huts has become common.
Last year, an elephant strayed into the heart of Rourkela city to create panic for 48 hours before it was shooed away into forest. The north, east and parts of southern sides of the district are covered by forests of Jharkhand and rest of the district’s border is surrounded by Keonjhar, Deogarh, Jharsuguda and Sambalpur districts besides Chhattisgarh. Villagers of all 17 blocks of the district are equally vulnerable.
Rourkela-based Regional Chief Conservator of Forests (RCCF) Subash Chandra Swain said wild animals require undisturbed habitats. “Elephants being long-range animals cannot confine themselves to a single location and migrate to greener pastures,” he said. Disturbances in the adjacent elephant corridors of Karo-Karampada in Jharkhand and Bamra in Sambalpur along with other neighbouring forest covers force the elephant herds to stray into Sundargarh offering abundant water and food.
Besides, over the past one decade elephant menace in limits of Rourkela and Bonai forest divisions took a quantum leap due to growing movement of Maoists and security forces in Jharkhand’s Saranda forest. Even noise pollution by heavy machineries and explosions due to mining operations in Saranda has been a problem for the animals. Simultaneously, elephants continue to stray into the limits of Sundargarh forest division from other directions.
Statistics are a pointer to this. In the past four years the district reported 43 human killings, including 11 in the last 10 months. Crops in around 3,783 acres were destroyed and 446 houses damaged in the past five years. Since 2007 till date 25 elephants had died and 3 of them were electrocuted.
The RCCF claimed elephant population has relatively grown in Odisha and the best way to tackle straying into human habitations is by ensuring them natural living conditions.
However, in the face of growing human greed providing safe environment to wildlife remains a far cry. Under the new mining guidelines of the Centre, the secluded roaming space of elephants will soon shrink as mining lease areas of 11,000 hectare (ha) in Sundargarh’s Bonai and 30,000 ha in adjacent Keonjhar district would have barbed wires.