Even as the Forest Department is planning to erect elephant-proof barricades to a length of 547 km in different wildlife sanctuaries in Karnataka to reduce man-animal conflict, forest officials of Chamarajanagar have succeeded in containing the conflict to some extent by adopting a novel strategy.
As a result of efforts of the forest officials and support extended by the local community, no elephant was electrocuted in Chamarajanagar district in the last 18 months, according to Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF), Chamarajanagar, Biswajit Mishra. On an average, five to six elephants were dying of electrocution every year. This was because of the frustration of farmers, who were losing their standing crop and not getting proper compensation in time. To address the issue, the department adopted a “three-pronged strategy.” Besides saving the lives of pachyderms, the eco-friendly approach has helped in protecting standing crops too.
After conducting a detailed study, Mr. Mishra envisaged a three pronged strategy — sensitising the staff on the issue and making them pro-active, clearing compensation due to the farmers and taking up work on erecting solar fences on priority.
Mr. Mishra told The Hindu that the staff rushed to the help of villagers and extended all support in scaring away the elephants that strayed into agricultural fields. Officials visited the spot immediately and submitted a report on the damage to life and crops for immediate release of compensation. “We have cleared compensation due to the farmers for the past eight years, and so far compensation to the tune of Rs. 54 lakh has been paid to them. This has helped in winning the hearts of farmers to some extent,” he said.
The Department repaired 25 km of solar fencing, besides erecting another 25 km of new fencing in the area bordering forests. Contractors of solar fencing were asked to maintain the fence for two years and Eco-Development Committees (EDC) were sensitised on the need to maintain the fence and elephant-proof trenches dug to keep the pachyderms at bay. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the DCF, contractor and the EDCs to maintain the fencing. “This move has helped in protecting the solar fencing to a greater extent.”
Mr. Mishra said that recently it was decided to hand over the responsibility of erecting and maintaining solar fences to EDCs by extending them technical training and paying them Rs. 1,500 a month as maintenance allowance. “We have formulated two models — erecting the fence with the department funds and handing over the responsibility of maintenance to EDCs, and erecting the fence with contribution from EDCs to create a sense of participation and ownership in them,” he noted.