The presence of elephants on the outskirts of cities is posing to be a bigger threat than the leopards as it is causing loss to lives, crops as well as constructions.
In a fresh incident reported on Thursday night, an elephant reached Nakraunda, on the outskirts of Dehradun, and destroyed paddy and sugarcane crops. When villagers tried to drive it away towards the forest by lighting crackers, it became even more agitated and destroyed boundary walls and houses in the vicinity.
Sub divisional officer (SDO) Dehradun forest division Gulbir Singh said: “It’s true after leopards, presence of elephants is on the rise around the city areas. Because of increased constructions in the elephant corridors (non forest areas) and the growing traffic, these animals are moving closer to cities.”
Explaining the reason for shift in movement of elephants, Lacchiwala ranger, Dehradun forest division, Ghanand Uniyal said: “Earlier they were confined to villages along River Ganga. But, in the last one year, a change in their movement has been noticed. And it’s primarily because of increased presence of pilgrims near the river and construction of motorable roads in over 100 villages on the Dehradun-Rishikesh route. So, while developmental activities can be listed as one of the reasons for the animals to panic and move towards the cities, paddy and sugarcane farming in this season is also a major cause.”
The threat from the elephants in the Lacchiwala range can be gathered from the fact that between July and November 10 this year, 200 villagers have sought compensation for the loss of their standing crops due to elephants. 95% of the applications have been received from villages bordering the capital.
The state forest department has provided nearly Rs 2.50 crore ex gratia to the affected people across the state whose life, property, and standing crops have been damaged by elephants.
The amount is three times more than what was paid about 8 years ago, said the department sources.
Areas facing threat from elephants fall in the forest divisions of Haridwar, Dehradun, Ramnagar, Kotdwar, Mussoorie and Lansdowne.
While expressing concern over the growing elephant menace around the cities, chief minister Harish Rawat has told the forest department to prepare a three-action plan for solving the problem. The plan comprises building a gorge around human settlements sharing boundary with forests, construction of walls and electric fencing to keep the wild animals like elephants, leopards, wild boar, and monkeys away.
State forest minister Dinesh Agarwal said the department has already initiated steps to mitigate the problem.