Not a month passes without farmers on fringes of Erode’s forest area complaining to the district administration at the periodic grievances day meetings about sufferings they undergo due to the havoc caused by wild animals to their standing crops.
Sugarcane, turmeric, banana and tapioca crops that the farmers of Thalavadi, Bargur, Anthiyur and other areas abutting the forest area largely cultivate become easy fodder for elephants, deer and wild boars that primarily come in search of water. The farmers have been suffering heavy losses since the animals destroy more than 10 times the quantum of fodder that they require for their food.
The question is what kind of intervention is possible for the district administration. The forest department considers that the farmers are responsible for the man-animal conflict.
According to the District Forest Officer, Erode, J.S. Ambrose, the main reason for animals coming out of the forest is drying up of water sources in the forest land.
“From two miles in the pre-Independence years to two km later, and much lesser subsequently, the buffer zone has now just become an imaginary line. The choice of crops is also a reason,” the DFO said, adding, “Ideally, farmers near forest areas must confine to cultivating only rain-fed seasonal crops. Digging of deep borewells for cultivation throughout the year has caused enormous depletion of ground water.”
Farmers do acknowledge that the buffer zone has ceased to exist along vast stretches, but wonder how they could switch over to other crops.
Presence of two major sugar mills in Sathyamangalam is what makes sugarcane a natural choice of crop for farmers, according to Subi Thalapathi, president, Bhavani River Farmers’ Association.
Farmers have been cultivating crops suiting agro-climatic conditions in the ayacut areas for several generations and must not be forced to shift to other crops, he says.
According to Mr. Thalapathi, the farmers are blamed, but the real culprits behind man-animal conflict are the operators of stone and granite quarries and the fenced farm houses.
Vibrations caused by the explosives used by the quarry operators make the sensitive wild animals run helter-skelter.
They lose direction and drift towards the plains, and due to the presence of walled and electrified fences of the farm houses stretching to several kilometres, the animals find themselves towards the fields cultivated by the traditional farmers.
There are arrays of fenced farm houses on expanses of more than 200 acres along the Asanur-Thalavadi and Asanur-Kollegal roads.
Fireworks during night time as part of celebrations in the farm houses disturb the natural frequency of animals and make them aggressive, Mr. Thalapathi said.
At the recent farmers’ grievances rederss meeting, Mr. Thalapathi wondered how the rich people could purchase from the traditional farmers their lands that had been given to their ancestors as conditional pattas.
The district administration must seek an explanation from the registration department and make its stand clear on the issue, he said.