Coimbatore: The Government is according greater impetus for installation of solar fences along fringe areas of forests prone to frequent man-animal conflict, Forest Minister N. Selvaraj said here on Wednesday.
He was talking to reporters at KG Hospital after visiting forest watcher Perumal, who sustained injuries in an attack by a wild elephant herd at Appanaickenpatti, near Sulur, on Tuesday evening.
He said steps would be taken to bear Mr. Perumal’s medical expenses after consulting the Chief Minister. Earlier, solar fences used to be installed for 10 to 20 km every year. But, now under tiger and elephant reserve programmes, more trenches were being dug and solar fences installed along forest borders. The Chief Minister had requested the Centre for enhanced fund allocation for man-animal conflict mitigation measures and last year 262.5 km of solar fencing was provided at an outlay of Rs.4.24 crore. During the current year, the Government allocated Rs.4.85 crore for installation of fencing covering 303.25 km.
To a suggestion on creation of an exclusive trained force to be positioned along the Western Ghats for handling man-animal conflict, Mr. Selvaraj said though the department had adequate trained staff, the Government would consider the idea.
In conflict-prone pockets, fire protection squad, tribal animal trackers and anti-depredation squad staff members were being drafted for handling conflict situations.
In addition, the Government had decided to acquire private lands obstructing the movement of elephants on vital elephant corridors. Officials had estimated that around 400 acres had to be acquired and the Government had allocated Rs.2.68 crore in the first phase. If the cost of the land was found to be higher, funds would not be a constraint, the Minister said. Mr. Selvaraj, along with senior Forest officials, visited the place near Chettipalayam where the elephant herd is holed up in a bush.
The Minister assured the villagers that the situation would be resolved. The Government would extend all help to the Forest personnel. The department began an operation early on Wednesday to drive the herd back into the reserve forests either towards Madukkarai or Kovaipudur using the tamed/trained kumkis from Mudumalai and Top Slip.