No end to woes of marooned tribespeople of Nilambur forest

Children spending time in a tree hut in the Vaniyampuzha tribal colony near Munderi. Most families in the colony sleep in tree huts to escape from wild elephant attack.   | Photo Credit: Sakeer Hussain

The woes of dozens of tribal families living in Vaniyampuzha, Iruttukuthi, Tharippapotti and Kumbalappara hamlets in the Nilambur forest near Munderi seed farm in Pothukal panchayat continue to be dreadful.

Since the floods of 2019, they have been marooned and living in constant fear. The authorities are yet to build a bridge across the Chaliyar to re-establish connectivity with the tribespeople living in the hamlets after the floods washed away two concrete bridges at


No proper house has been constructed for the three dozen families of Vaniyampuzha since the floods destroyed their homes over two years ago. They had escaped the fury of the floods by running into the jungle. Since then, they have been living in makeshift tents made of tarpaulin inside the forest. Moreover, the area is infested with wild elephants.

Several incidents of elephant attacks were reported from near those the tribal hamlets in the past two years. Two tribesmen sustained injuries in a tusker attack at Vaniyampuzha a few weeks ago. One of them had a narrow escape by hanging on to the tusk of the attacking elephant.

“We have been living in constant fear. Our families sleep on tree tops at night to escape from sudden raids by elephants and other wild animals,” said S. Girish, a youngster from Vaniyampuzha.

During the day, children are not allowed to play freely, as the area is not safe. “We have to keep guard for our kids,” said Sudha V.K., a tribal representative. “What safety do we have under these tarpaulin sheets?” she asked, pointing to the tarpaulin houses that wobbled in winds.

Ms. Sudha and others did not risk going back to their flood-ravaged houses. “I don’t have the courage to go back there. Some of our houses disappeared, and some others were filled with mud. Going back is riskier than living under these tarpaulin tents in the jungle,” she said.

To scare away elephants, tribespeople revived a traditional equipment using bamboo. “Our forefathers used this wooden equipment. Now that we are forced to live in a totally unsafe environment in the jungle, we found no other way but to fall back on our traditional knowledge to parry elephants,” said Mr. Gireesh.

Kumaran, a seasoned tribal man, said tribespeople were not keen on scaring off elephants. “Driving the elephants away is not on our agenda. But we use this bamboo instrument that makes a loud sound to alert elephants about our presence in the area,” he said.

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Printable version | May 10, 2021 7:45:17 AM |

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