Conflict-control cells for jumbos- Centre recommends task forces for Sonitpur and Majuli
Guwahati, Sept. 5: The Elephant Task Force of the Union ministry of environment and forests has called for setting up of conflict management task forces in Sonitpur and Majuli, the two places in Assam that are witness to the highest incidents of human-elephant conflict.
The move has been necessitated as the task force favours a permanent mission with innovative methods to prevent more deaths in high-conflict zones.
The conflict management task force will be funded by the proposed National Elephant Conservation Authority and there will be a permanent/long-term programme to reduce continual conflicts.
The task force must include a biologist with expertise on elephants in the region, an animal welfare specialist, a wildlife veterinarian, an expert of rural socio-economic issues/social scientist, elected representatives, the regional chief conservator of forests and a representative of the revenue or civil department.
The territorial wing of the forest department will be fully associated with the process.
In July, four persons were killed by elephants in Majuli. That month in Sonitpur district, three persons were trampled to death by elephants in Biswanath Reserve Forest.
Between 2007 and 2009, as many as 166 people were killed by elephants.
Figures show an increasing trend with deaths of 44 people in 2007, 52 in 2008 and 70 last year.
A report by the Elephant Task Force was submitted to the Union minister of environment and forests Jairam Ramesh in New Delhi on August 31.
The report was prepared to secure a future for the elephant, its survival in the wild and care in captivity.
Sources associated with the making of the report said the setting of the conflict management task force would take some time and a lot of fieldwork required to be done.
The report says that short drives which basically focus on driving elephants deeper into the forest or away from a particular village often serve little purpose as elephants either return or stray into the next village, causing problems.
“This approach can be used to placate people in a crisis situation, but cannot be used as a routine human-elephant conflict mitigation measure in any area as the real need is more lasting solutions,” it says.
It is often alleged that officials are not easily accessible to cultivators and other villagers affected by elephants and damage to crops by herds.
The report has recommended that public hearings be held at least twice a year at the local level.
These could be chaired by the local MLA and the presence of not only the wildlife wing and territorial wing staff but also the revenue and civil authority is mandatory.
These public consultations at the local level are a must particularly in high-conflict areas.
Acknowledging the importance of human elephant conflict, the report says that more than half the expenditure incurred by Project Elephant under the 10th Five Year Plan is for human-elephant conflict mitigation.
Another 15 to 20 per cent is spent on payment of ex gratia and compensation for loss of property or crops.