Causing harm to elephant population, says activist Causing harm to elephant population, say experts

New Delhi: Development projects in Uttaranchal are not wildlife friendly and are especially causing harm to elephant population of the State, environmentalists claim.

According to official figures, 90 elephants have been killed in the last five years alone, which was nearly 20 per cent of the State's pachyderm population, J.P. Dabral of the Himalayan Chipko Foundation said here, raising concern about an elephantine problem.

While seven tuskers were killed, probably by poachers, in the famous Jim Corbett National Park, 20 cows and young elephants had been killed after being hit by trains in Rajaji National Park, he said.

One tusker was killed last month in Barkot range forest in Dehra Dun district due to man-animal conflict, he added.

After the formation of Uttaranchal state in November 2000 there had been a spurt in development activities in the State, dams, roads, bridges, transmission lines, canals were being constructed, Mr Dabral said. There was a proposal to build a four-lane highway from Dehra Dun to Tanakpur through Rajaji National Park, Chilla National Park and Jim Corbett National Park, posing danger to the wildlife and ecology of the area, he added.

Though development activities could not be stopped. However, such projects must have adequate planning to make them wildlife and eco-friendly, the wildlife activist said.

He pointed out that the National Highway Authority of India, which made guidelines for the construction of highways in the country, did not have any comprehensive guidelines for making roads in wildlife, forested or mountainous areas.

The `deadly' railway track near Motichur in Uttaranchal where 20 elephants had been killed in accidents should be `elevated' to allow easy passage for the animals, he suggested.

Similarly, the water canal going from Rishikesh to Uttar Pradesh along the Chilla National Park could be covered in some stretches to enable elephants to cross it, he said.

Traditionally, wild elephant herds used to migrate across the Yamuna river to Tanakpur and beyond into Nepal.

Their movement was also a deterrent to the poachers and hunters. But today the scenario was different. Elephants of Rajaji National Park could not cross the Ganga canal because its cemented embankments trap the elephants and they get drowned, he said. Tree felling by the forest mafia had also added to the vulnerability of the elephants. In Barkot forest range near Dehra Dun where an elephant was killed last month, it was a common sight to see timber being smuggled openly by tractor trolleys without registration numbers, he claimed. -- UNI