Chhattisgarh is among those Indian states where the persisting impact of human-elephant conflict often cause deaths to human as well as the tuskers also get killed besides leaving a vast stretch of crops devastated. The previous month, seven wild elephants died in the state. Over 260 elephants in some 20 herds reportedly move around in different forest divisions across north and east-central Chhattisgarh. The state forest minister Mohammed Akbar in an interview with Ejaz Kaiser reveals the government’s action plan to minimise the human-elephant clashes.
What specific line of actions being taken-up to avert human-elephant conflict?
We need to understand the elephants will remain in Chhattisgarh. The forest department has embarked upon a plan to ensure sufficient availability of food and water in the protected areas or jungle terrain of tuskers that will limit its encroachment in human habitats. Simultaneously, restricting human interference along the forest tracts of wild elephants is essential. As many as 7887 Joint Forest Management Committee members across the forest divisions are engaged in the task. Merely offering compensations for various losses owing to the human-elephant hostility is no secured solution. Elephants being intelligent animals continue migrating in search of food.
How sufficient food would be made available for the wild pachyderms?
Through the technique of broadcasting seed balls of fruits, vegetables in forests. The Forest Management Committee members have been entrusted with the task to guard the areas and keep the records of germination, growth status and success proportion of the seeds. Previous year over 48500 kg of fruit seeds have been sown in the forested territory that also saw encouraging participation of the local population and the people’s representatives.
How about the measures to safeguard large tracts of forests for jumbos?
The then Union Government had given its consent to notify the elephant reserves at Bandalkhol, Tamor Pingla, Samarsot and Lemru forests in the state. The previous state (BJP) government despite 450 sq km notified seven years ago as Lemru elephant reserve didn’t show any interest owing to the immense coal deposits lying beneath it. We have urged the Centre to cancel auction for commercial mining of five coal blocks which fall across the elephant reserve in the state. The Bhupesh Baghel cabinet after reviewing the Lemru elephant reserve area realised 450 sq km as geographically insufficient for the elephants and so approved to expand it to 1995 sq km.
What more being done to prevent encounters of human with wild elephants?
The authorities in the department are resorting to early warning systems like SMS alerts on likely location of herd of wild tuskers, solar fences, flashing (LED) lights besides creating awareness on various Do's and Don’ts for the rural masses to prevent casualties on both sides. Through the coordinated efforts with the support of experts, officials, and local communities we are implementing steps to stave off human-elephant confrontation.
And on ensuring the accountability in forest department.
The state government took stern action over the recent deaths of six elephants and fixed the responsibility. We have launched a distinct mobile application with an inbuilt system of online real-time monitoring of attendance of over 6700-strong workforce and how they are engaged in the field or various activities across various forest divisions. All officers and staff of the department will have to register with the App. Every forest division will now have an elephant monitoring team of 10 members each. A decision ahs also been taken to deploy veterinary doctors on deputation wherever required.