Man-animal conflict is difficult to resolve in conditions existing in Kerala. However, the government is sitting on a proposal which offers a clean solution to the problem in Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.
About 10000 people living in pockets inside the Sanctuary are willing to relocate from the conflict zone, leaving the land to the animals. The Central government has already sanctioned Rs. 80 crore for resettlement of nearly one third of the population. However, only 4.5 crore had been released so far.
As per a report of Kerala Forest Research Institute (KFRI), there are 110 settlements having 2613 families in the Sanctuary. Besides, there are 264 families without proper land records. Frequent attacks by wild animals occur in these settlements and settlers and the farmers often retaliate. More than 100 persons have died in attacks by wild animals over the years. Much crop had also been damaged. The elephant deaths in the region are more than the normal because of retaliatory attacks by the people.
The Forest and Wildlife Department spends sizeable sums in building elephant proof trenches, boundary walls and solar power fencing and paying compensation to the victims. The High Court had directed the government to devise a scheme for resettlement of the trapped people in the sanctuary as back as in 1986.
However, action from the part of the government was wanting despite the willingness of the people to relocate. The Central government’s scheme provides for cash compensation of Rs. 10 lakh to each of the families willing to relocate, irrespective of their land holdings. The amount actually does not reflect the conditions in Kerala where the value of land outside the sanctuary going up higher and higher. Yet, the families have expressed willingness to move out.
The KFRI study had deemed 2485 families in 1385 houses suitable for relocation. This would make about 1700 acres available for reversion to forests. The regeneration of forests could be of major gain for the sanctuary and Cauvery basin.