24 jumbo deaths in CESU area in Odisha (India)


The New Indian Express

Date Published
BHUBANESWAR: In the last five years, electrocution has killed more elephants than poaching in the State. Only accidents and diseases have claimed more lives. And it is in distribution company (discom) CESU’s jurisdiction that most of the casualties have been reported.
Between 2013-14 and 2017-18, as many as 34 elephants were electrocuted. Of them, 24 deaths were reported in CESU area alone.

In 2013-14, six electrocution deaths were recorded in CESU jurisdiction followed by four in 2014-15. The year 2015-16 saw the highest number of electrocution casualties in the State – as many as 14 – of which nine were reported in CESU jurisdiction. Of the four deaths recorded this year, three have been in the discom’s area.

The death of three jumbos in Dhenkanal was a grim reminder of how poorly the discoms have responded to the Wildlife Wing’s request to correct sagging of wires which kills the jumbos. The DFO office in Dhenkanal had asked CESU to rectify sagging in Borapada reserve forests three months back, but it was not attended to. The result was for all to see.

Despite the Wildlife Wing holding meeting with Energy Department and discom heads, there has been no perceptible improvement in sagging of the electricity lines. ‘’We keep identifying the forests and corridors used by elephants where lines are found sagging but in many cases, there is delayed or no response from the discoms,’’ said a senior officer of the Wildlife Wing. CESU apart, NESCO and WESCO too have recorded electrocution deaths.

Although the Wildlife Wing has been aggressively slapping abetment of hunting charges against discom officials in such instances, it has not worked as a deterrent. ‘’How many officials of the discoms have actually been convicted of the charges so far?’’ asked an insider. With prosecution not the big strength of Forest Department, such charges have been taken lightly by discoms.

While accidental electrocution accounts for less than half the deaths, deliberate electrocution has snuffed out more jumbo lives. With the field staff in the divisions failing to keep a track of the actual cases of sagging and tracking of herds not very successful, the problem has compounded.

In a State where jumbos are displaced from their habitats like no other, such a high number of electrocution deaths is not unnatural. Driven away from the forests by fast spreading urbanisation and development projects, these jumbos on the run have migrated to newer territories only to face hounding and death.

Forest and Environment Minister Bijayshree Routray, in a high-level meeting on Saturday, asked for details of sagging across the divisions so that he could take up the matter with Energy Department.

In the last five years, 309 elephants have died in the State. Of them, 29 died of anthrax while 70 died of other diseases. In case of 68 deaths, reasons have not been ascertained. As many as 19 elephants were poached during the period whereas train and road mishaps claimed five lives.