Man-elephant conflicts has increased in south Bengal districts, as elephants which enter the region from the Dalma hills of Jharkhand stay on for longer every year.
West Bengal Forest Minister Benoy Krishna Burman told The Hindu on Monday that earlier, elephants remained in these districts for a couple of months before returning to Jharkhand or moving across to Odisha. However, over the past few years, they stayed on for much of the year, resulting in crop losses and human deaths.
A senior official of the Forest Department said Paschim Medinipur and Bankura were the affected districts, and the government had to pay Rs. 3 crore in compensation a year for loss of life and damage to houses and crops. About 10 persons were killed in each district every year.
Mr. Burman said the government was planning to increase the compensation for loss of life from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 2 lakhs.
Explaining how the pattern of elephant migration changed in south Bengal over the past three decades, S.C. Das, Divisional Forest Officer, Bankura (North), said that in the early 1990s, a herd used to reach the State from the Dalma forest in September and return by January. However, over the past year, the herd was spending 9-10 months in Paschim Medinipur and Bankura, perhaps attracted by large tracts of land with standing crops and forests.
This year, a herd of 120 elephants had roamed in the forest division under the jurisdiction of Mr. Das from January 6 to March 1, and 30 of them were still there.
The number of elephants coming to the State also increased from around 50 in 1990.
“We have now 134-145 elephants staying in south Bengal for much of the year.”
In North Bengal
Unlike north Bengal districts, which have large forests dotted with small habitations, south Bengal districts have small forests with large habitations, a condition that conduced to man-animal conflict.
North Bengal forests sustained a healthy population of elephants — 529 as per the 2010 census — and cases of conflicts were fewer, officials said.