As elephants get electrocuted one after the other in Odisha, the State Government has no clue where the buck stops. Its Energy and Forest and Environment departments, which are engaged in an endless sparring over the rising incidence of electrocution, met here on Friday but found no solution to the major issues.
While the Forest and Environment Department insisted that the Energy Department must meet the safety norms to prevent the electrocution, the latter wanted to know where will the funds come from for maintaining the electric supply lines and towers.
Forest and Environment Minister Bijoyshree Routray and Energy Minister Arun Sahoo, with their team of officers in tow, were closeted for several hours to thrash out the issues and came out with a 14-point resolution which was not much different from what existed in the past in terms of measures the two departments must take.
Since 2001, at least 116 elephants have been electrocuted, 46 of which were deliberate electrocutions and 70 accidental. In last one week, six elephants have died, five of them due to electrocution. This year, 11 electrocution deaths have been reported in the State.
“We are working on a series of realistic measures to prevent the deaths. What were planned in the past does not matter, what we are planning for the future is the key,” Routray said, declining to elaborate the discussions between the two departments.
Going by sources, the source of funds necessary for maintaining safety has remained the most contentious point. The Forest Department sources said it was Energy Department’s responsibility to maintain the sagging supply lines, leaning towers and poles, create concrete structures and install insulators.
“The Energy Department could at least ensure these measures in the regions where elephant movement is intensive, mostly in corridors but they are worried about the funds,” said the sources.
However, it is the distribution companies which are responsible for the maintenance of the lines and towers which are primary causes of the deaths. In last eleven years, WESCO area has reported 37 electrocution deaths while SOUTHCO reported 20. Similarly, CESU has recorded 25 elephant electrocution deaths whereas it was 34 in areas under NESCO.
While the Energy Department has passed the buck onto the Forest Department seeking funds to carry out the safety measures, the latter’s stand is exactly the opposite.
The meeting decided that a state-level coordination committee will be formed which will monitor the situation while discussing the funds arrangement. In the district-level, Collectors will hold meetings on a monthly basis. While elephants will be tracked, wherever necessary, power supply will be disconnected temporarily in the areas where movement of jumbos is reported.