Odisha govt to launch scheme to check elephant deaths
With the number of elephants getting electrocuted and run over by trains and trucks increasing, Odisha government has decided to launch a scheme, Gajabandhu, for their safety and protection.
As part of the scheme, which will be launched in villages surrounding elephant corridors, the location and movement of elephants will be tracked, said AK Mohapatra, outgoing chief wildlife warden of Odisha. A ‘Gajabandhu’ (friend of elephants) will lead a team assigned this task, which will coordinate with field officials.
“We hope it would help in preventing elephant deaths due to road accidents and man-animal conflicts,” said Mohapatra. The government is also planning to construct speed breakers at 65 locations in elephant corridors and install CCTV cameras at some loacations, he added.
Last month, 3 elephants, including a calf, were killed after being hit by a bus and two iron ore-laden trucks in on National Highway-20 in Keonjhar district.
As a result of elephants wandering into ripened paddy fields, the number of man-animal conflicts in 2018 shot up to an all-time high, 154. A record 84 elephants died and 95 persons were killed during these conficts last year.
In Odisha, the average annual elephant casualty, which was 33 in 1990, has now reached 73, one of the highest in the country. Official statistics say that about 1,400 elephants and 1,200 humans have been killed in the State due to the conflict since 1990.
Apart from the Gajabandhu scheme, another scheme will be started for solar fencing around crop hills/orchards with a subsidy component of 90:10 basis to prevent damage by the wild elephants.
The villages where such man-animal conflicts occur the most are going to be covered under the scheme in the first phase. Farms will be empanelled for execution of the solar fencing works as well as capacity building of the beneficiaries.
“A volunteer from each affected village will ensure people do not venture into forests during early morning hours and evenings. These volunteers will get monetary incentives and support under the scheme,” said a senior forest department official.