Assam Government to set up control rooms, procure vehicles to manage man-elephant conflict
GUWAHATI: With the increasing instances of man-elephant conflict in the state, the forest department will set up control rooms in 11 divisions in order to manage the man-elephant conflict in the state. This was decided in a meeting held at the office of the principal chief conservator of forests, Panjabari on Wednesday.
During the meeting, the state forest minister Parimal Sukhlabaidya called for suggestions from the officials on mitigating the man-elephant conflict in the state. Some of the suggestions included setting up of a control room in all divisions with adequate manpower.
The meeting was chaired by the forest minister and was attended by the chairman of Pollution Control Board of Assam (PCBA), AM Singh, divisional forest officers (DFOs) from across the state, members of NGOs working in the field and other concerned officials.
“We need to first identify the areas which are most prone to man-animal conflict and set up control rooms in these areas. The control rooms should be functional 24 hours so as to cut the response time in case of any emergency,” said Sukhlabaidya.
He added that the department will also conduct a total survey in this regard, so as to identify the root cause of the problem.
This apart, following the footsteps of West Bengal’s ‘Airavat’ vehicles, the state will also procure four vehicles to decrease the trouble caused by man-animal conflict in the state.
These vehicles will be equipped with all state-of-the-art equipment. Airavat vehicles used in West Bengal are GPS enabled and have space for keeping equipment like tranquiliser guns so that the forest officials are equipped to face any emergency situation.
Authorities revealed that this year alone as many as 54 elephants were killed in conflicts in Assam.
During the meeting, officials informed that earlier the incidents were limited to the winter months between November and January. However, now they have become more frequent and such incidents occur throughout the year.
While putting forth their suggestions to control the man-animal conflict in the state, one of the divisional forest officers informed the minister that there was an urgent need to secure corridors. He further added that more patrolling was required, including increasing the number of trackers and informers to effectively control the situation.
“Trackers and field personnel need to be equipped with torches and other equipment. We also need to involve village dwellers and work in tandem with them,” he said.
Habitat improvement for elephants was also raised as a significant issue. The authorities said they needed to look at long-term measures instead of concentrating on short-term solution to the problem.
Dept faces staff crunch, lack of equipment and vehicles
The forest department officials of several divisions are facing staff shortage. They also informed the minister that they lack proper equipment and vehicles to tackle the advent of pachyderms into the city.
“Many of our field officers are old and are not fit enough to visit the field. We face staff crunch as there has been no new recruitment for the past several years. In such a situation, it becomes difficult to manage in times of crisis,” informed the DFO of Nagaon.
Another official from Guwahati said, “We need to map the elephant distribution to be better prepared. If we know the distribution, the division would be in a better position to manage the situation.”
As per reports, last year a total of 70 elephants had died due to various reasons including electrocution, poisoning and train accidents. Further, a total of 48 people were trampled to death by elephants till November 2017.
Elephants usually venture out in search of food and water in the dry seasons between the months of November and January. Further, the state’s declining forest cover is making matters worse for the elephants.
Moreover, late payment of ex-gratia to the families of victims of man-elephant conflict was also identified as one of the prime concerns by the forest department.
In a recent case of such an incident, at least four people including one woman were severely injured during an elephant rampage in the city’s Panjabari area.
The residents of the area stated that an elephant herd was regularly seen moving in the area but that day one elephant attacked the locals injuring at least four people. The injured people have been identified as Hari Das, Bobita Das, Rahul Das and Upen Das.
According to reports, the elephant entered Bagharbori and Panjabari of Guwahati and went on a rampage, destroying vehicles and houses. Following the incident, the forest department officials reached the spot and managed to chase the herd away.