Rail barricading sees steep fall in crop damage claims around Nagarahole

June 22, 2020 11:30 pm | Updated 11:31 pm IST - MYSURU

Rail barricade set up in an area near Nagarahole to prevent entry to elephants.

Rail barricade set up in an area near Nagarahole to prevent entry to elephants.

There is a steep drop in crop damage claims filed by farmers around Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, where the country’s first rail barricading project has been taken up to reduce human-elephant conflict. The project was launched in 2015 and envisages the installation of rail barricade or fence spanning a distance of 156 km in the core area. Barricade the length of 43 km has been installed. The cost of laying fence for 1 km is ₹1.25 crore.

Though the project is still a work in progress, there has been a steep drop in cash compensation claims from villages adjoining which the barricade has been installed.

Mahesh Kumar, director, Nagarahole National Park, told The Hindu that in Hunsur Wildlife Division, there were 90 cash compensation claims arising out of crop damage due to elephant raids in 2015-16 and 2016-17. But this declined to 33 cases spread over three years — from 2017-18 to 2019-20.

Veeranahosahalli range used to witness the highest number of conflicts and there were 469 cases during the three-year period from 2015-16 to 2017-18. But once fencing was completed around the range in 2018, only 60 cases were reported during the next two years.

Metikuppe range, which recorded 147 compensation claims from 2015-16 to 2018-19, has not seen a single crop damage case ever since the rail fence was completed in that range last year, said Mr. Kumar. There is a pattern in the statistics and it indicates a steep decline in crop damage claims in areas where the fencing has been completed, he said.

The Forest Department used to settle cash compensation claims amounting to crores of rupees earlier, but the amount is declining now.

Height of fence

There were issues with the height of the fence. It was earlier pegged at 2 metres, but has now been redesigned and does not allow elephants to cross over. Also, in areas where there are special structures because of undulating terrain, the spikes have been removed following a Supreme Court order. “These spikes used to deter the elephants, but after the apex court order the spikes were replaced with cross barricading that is effective and prevents elephants from sneaking through,” said Mr. Kumar.

He said the Forest Department was now going in for barricading the buffer zone as well where the conflict was high. Nearly 200 sq.km, comprising reserve forests and which was under the purview of the territorial division, was incorporated into the park management in 2018-19 and declared as a buffer. “The periphery of the buffer will also be fenced so as to prevent elephants from straying into human habitations. This will entail installing an additional 103 km of rail fence,” he added.

Similar barricading has been taken up around Bandipur and M.M. Hills wildlife reserves as well and other parts where human-elephant conflict is high.

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