KOCHI: Around 20 elephants from four herds have been lingering in five panchayats of the Kothamangalam assembly constituency, defying the efforts of the forest department’s rapid response team to drive them back to the forest. A meeting chaired by Kothamangalam MLA Antony John concluded that funds from NABARD, the Crop Health Management scheme, and Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana would be utilised to install a hanging power fence along the forest boundary.
The wild elephants have been residing in the panchayats of Kuttakmpuzha, Kavalangad, Pindimana, Kottappady, and Keerampara for over a month. Attempts by the forest rapid response team and local residents to relocate the elephants have proven unsuccessful. The elephants spend their days in teak and acacia plantations, venturing into farmlands at night, causing fear among the local populace.
“We have decided to access Rs 2.5 crore from the NABARD fund to install a hanging power fence in the affected areas. Agriculture Department assistant director Priyamol will prepare the estimate for the project. Additionally, we need to install a hanging power fence covering 18 km in Kavalangad panchayat, 11 km in Pindimana panchayat, 8 km in Kuttampuzha panchayat, and 14 km in Keerampara panchayat,” said Antony John.
Work on installing hanging fences in Kottapady and Neendapara will commence immediately, while a 7 km-long hanging fence in Vadattupara panchayat is in its final stages. The elephant herds have taken residence in human habitats under the Kothamangalam, Mullaringad, and Neriamangalam range offices.
“We have not experienced an elephant menace in Thadikulam and Kanjiraveli before. Last year, a herd entered Neendapara. The elephants have now reached areas approximately 5 km away from the forest boundary. Farmers are concerned as the elephants are causing damage to crops,” said Kavalangad panchayat president Siby Mathew.
“The elephants are raiding farmlands in five wards, and despite the efforts of the RRT, the herd is refusing to return to the forest. The elephants are staying in the acacia plantations during the daytime. The forest department is cutting down acacia trees in Vettampara and Vaveli areas. We hope the elephants will return to the forest if the plantation is cleared. We have requested the installation of a hanging fence,” said Pindimana panchayat president Jessy Saju.
“Last year, elephants entered three wards in our panchayat, but now there is a frequent presence of elephants in five wards. The elephants destroyed a house last month, and the family miraculously escaped. Farmers are devastated as the herds have destroyed the crops,” said Kottapady panchayat president Mini Gopi.