Coimbatore’s Govanur Valley turns a hotbed of negative human-elephant interactions

Three herds of elephants and two tuskers are roaming in forest areas coming under the Naickenpalayam section of the Periyanaickenpalayam forest range in the Valley

January 20, 2023 07:49 pm | Updated 09:27 pm IST - COIMBATORE

A land abutting forest boundary excavated for brick making in Govanur Valley in Coimbatore district.

A land abutting forest boundary excavated for brick making in Govanur Valley in Coimbatore district. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Govanur Valley in Coimbatore district is emerging as a hotbed of negative interactions involving humans and wild elephants.

On Friday, R. Bhagyam, 75, a resident of Govanur, was attacked by a wild elephant when she went to an open space near her house to attend nature’s call early in the morning. Her condition was stable.

On Thursday, a 65-year-old farmer was trampled to death by a lone tusker near a temple at Ranganathapuram in the Valley around 5.30 p.m. The same elephant had attacked another farmer aged 65 in the morning.

According to the Forest Department, three herds of elephants and two tuskers are roaming in forest areas coming under the Naickenpalayam section of the Periyanaickenpalayam forest range in the Valley.

Members of the Govanur Meetpu Kuzhu, a committee of people who are fighting against illegal mining by brick kiln operators in the Valley, allege that elephants started entering villages due to excavation of red earth from uncultivated lands at the foothills and forest boundaries.

“Pits ranging from 10 to 50 feet have been formed along forest boundaries due to illegal mining by 33 brick kilns in the Valley. Elephants had been using these lands for foraging and migration in the past. Now, they are forced to enter villages,” said a member of the committee, requesting anonymity.

He accused brick kiln operators of shifting existing stock at night and clearing trails of their illegal mining using excavators, worsening negative interactions between humans and elephants.

This was in violation of a proceeding issued by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board on December 20 last year, ordering closure and disconnection of power supply of 100 brick chambers and country kilns located in different parts of Coimbatore, including 30-odd units in Govanur Valley, for want of various permits, he said.

Activist S. Ganesh of Thadagam Valley Protection Committee alleged that illegal excavation for brick making destroyed transit paths and pastures along forest boundaries that were in Govanur Valley, which were traditionally used by wild elephants.

“Thadagam Valley, which used to be a hotbed of negative human-elephant interactions, reported zero human deaths after 177 brick kilns which functioned illegally were sealed in 2021,” he claimed.

The last human casualty due to elephant attack reported in Coimbatore Forest Division was in August 2022 when an eco-watcher of the Forest Department was trampled to death by a wild elephant in Boluvampatti forest range.

“Additional staff from nearby Mettupalayam and Sirumugai forest ranges have been brought to Naickenpalayam forest section to handle the current situation. The department will check all aspects to address the situation,” he said.

A senior official from the Revenue Department said that its staff will check where brick manufacturers engage in transportation of bricks and other illegal activities at night.

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