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Journalist dies as boat capsizes during elephant rescue in Mahanadi

An elephant stranded at Mundali barrage flood water in Mahanadi.   | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout

A journalist died and one member of the Odisha Disaster Rapid Action Force (ODRAF) was missing after a boat that was sent to rescue a wild elephant stranded in the Mahanadi river capsized on Friday.

The journalist, identified as Arindam Das (40), was working with a regional television channel. The condition of another video-journalist and three ODRAF personnel was stated to be critical.

Early on Friday, the tusker was found stuck near a bridge after it got separated from a herd of 17 that was trying to cross the river. Eight managed to swim across and reach Chandaka and two others were swept away to Anantpur. Nine others moved towards Dhabaleswar.

‘Regular migration route’

“The herd was coming from the Sukasen Forest of the Athagarh Forest division to the Chandaka Forest. They swim across the Mahanadi regularly. It’s their regular migration route,” said Sangram Behera, Assistant Conservator of Forests of the Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary.

Constantly repelled by strong flood water of the river, the elephant tried to walk ashore. But, it remained stranded for more than 9 hours. Forest and disaster response forces were clueless about rescuing it.

After hours-long wait, the ODRAF team entered the water. This was when the two journalists volunteered to accompany them. The boat could not withstand the swirling river near the bridge site. The boat overturned and ODRAF personnel who are trained to deal with situations like this were found helpless.

Attempts to revive Das proved futile, said Bhubanananda Maharana, spokesperson of the SCB Medical College Hospital, Cuttack.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik condoled the journalist’s death.

Jayant Mardharaj, environmentalist and member of State Biodiversity Board, said, “The forest areas of both the Chandaka and Athagarh divisions fall in the development zone of the Bhubaneswar, Cuttack and Athagarh urban areas. Earlier, elephants were not having any problem in migrating from Athagarh to Chandaka. Now, farm houses have come up along the Mahanadi bank, restricting their movement”.

Migration corridors notification

The government, he stated, should immediately notify elephant migration corridors and control development in these areas. “If development is not regulated, elephants are likely to face similar crisis in future,” he warned.

Recently, the National Green Tribunal Eastern Zone directed the government to notify 14 elephant corridors and the action plan for elephant conservation.

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Printable version | Oct 16, 2021 6:26:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/boat-sent-to-rescue-stuck-elephant-in-mahanadi-overturns/article36645846.ece

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