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With help from Germany, foresters take first steps to mitigate man-animal conflict

The project seeks to lessen man-animal conflict around Haridwar where leopards, elephants, nilgai and wild pigs pose threat to human beings.

dehradun Updated: Feb 28, 2018 20:36 IST
Nihi Sharma
Nihi Sharma
Hindustan Times, Dehradun
Uttarakhand,Man-animal conflict,Uttarakhand forest department
A leopard killed two young girls in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district. (Representative Photo)

The Uttarakhand forest department has decided to implement a mitigation project in Haridwar under an Indo-German cooperation programme to deal with rising man-animal conflict.

The project will deal with leopards, elephants, Nilgai or blue bull and wild pigs.

The mitigation project follows a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Union ministry of environment forest and climate change and Germany’s Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) signed in October last year. The objective of the MoU is to protect local communities in human-wildlife conflict areas.

The collaboration between India and Germany has identified West Bengal, Karnataka and Uttarakhand to prepare strategies for mitigation. In this regard, the first independent state meeting between the Uttarakhand government and the GIZ was held on Tuesday in the state capital in which Haridwar district was chosen as a pilot site.

“It’s a four-year project. After thorough deliberation, we chose Haridwar as it is ailing with various issues,” DVS Khati, Uttarakhand’s chief wildlife warden said.

Haridwar is a sensitive spot not only with regard to conflict especially in places like Raiwala which is adjoining Rajaji Tiger Reserve but due to other issues like encroachment, habitat degradation, the dependency of locals on forest and others.

One of the key tasks of the project will be a census of leopards and their prey base in the area. This would give fair information on the status of the cats which have become a potent risk for locals. The national estimation of elephants last year already provides an idea of the pachyderm population in the region.

From crop depredation to property damage and loss of human lives, elephants are also a big threat in the belt. Similarly, nilgai and wild pigs continue to pose risk to agriculture.

“We need a holistic strategy through this pilot project, which could be implemented in other districts as well,” Dhananjai Mohan, additional principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) said.

Until about two years ago, the man-animal conflict was mainly dealt with providing compensation or removing the problem animal from the site. But, in 2016, the state’s first sterilisation centre was opened at Chidiapur rescue centre at Haridwar where monkey sterilisation started. Despite various hurdles, the centre has successfully sterilised over 1000 monkeys during this period.

The Uttarakhand forest department also adopted an action plan followed in Maharashtra. Two pilot sites -Tehri and Pauri - were chosen where Quick Response Teams (QRTs) were constituted which provide immediate relief.

“The teams are active in the area. Obviously, they can’t avert an encounter with a wild animal, but the team reaches in time and provide immediate relief during an emergency. They are also playing a crucial role in sensitising locals,” said Akash Chandra, a resident of Pauri.

These teams are provided latest equipment like tranquiliser guns and other accessories. Laxman Singh Sajwan, a QRT member of Tehri said, “We are mobile, have our own equipment and are well trained. Locals trust us and immediately inform of any incident.”

In both areas, the QRTs have successfully handled over 15 cases involving leopards in the past one year.

Over 400 people have lost their lives in man-animal conflict in Uttarakhand since the state’s formation 18 years ago. Nearly 250 of them were killed by leopards.

First Published: Feb 28, 2018 20:36 IST