Strong action must to solve man - animal row
India’s best kept secret’ is an exciting catchline the Odisha government uses for the state’s tourism brand-building exercise. And one of the key attractions is its vastly unexplored flora and fauna.
India’s best kept secret’ is an exciting catchline the Odisha government uses for the state’s tourism brand-building exercise. And one of the key attractions is its vastly unexplored flora and fauna. But what is no more a secret is its ballooning conflict scenario. Home to some of the country’s flagship species, the state is the new address for human-wildlife conflict. As the state chalks up new numbers in economic development, be it urbanisation, infrastructure, mining or industrialisation, in the five years between 2018–19 and 2022–23, at least 692 people died in conflict with wild animals in India.
Elephants caused over 85% of these deaths—a dubious record in itself. The number of elephants that perished in the conflict zones tells a depressing tale: in those five years, over 430 elephants died in Odisha. The fact that many elephants die of retaliatory electrocution by people sums up the story of the human-elephant conflict.
People’s hostility towards wildlife has assumed alarming proportions in recent years, and the relief from the state has been well short of assuring. The government shelled out over `100 crore as compensation towards the loss of lives and property in the last five years, which remains woefully low compared with some other large states in the country. The below-par ex gratia norms need immediate revision. As per available statistics, elephant attacks alone have left over 200 people in Odisha permanently disabled in the last 10 years, and the numbers have been spiralling since. One needs to factor in the loss of crops and other property yearly during farming seasons when the animals come raiding.
As the conflict intensifies in the face of rapid fragmentation of corridors and loss of habitats of key wildlife species, the forest department has found it increasingly difficult to contain the growing standoff between humans and wild animals. Without adequate support from the state regarding financial assistance and livelihood, the local communities that face depredation have turned their ire towards wildlife. Not long ago, the state government attempted to reintroduce tigers in one of its reserves, failing in the face of massive resentment from local communities. The state government must take a fresh look at its strategies and compensation mechanism to arrest the trend.