The man-elephant conflict has again come to the fore in Uttarakhand, with elephants injuring one person each in the Dehradun, Mussoorie and Haridwar forest divisions in the past week. The pachyderms have also damaged over 300 hectares of agricultural land in the same period.
The forests of these three divisions are most vulnerable to rampaging elephants, especially during the monsoons.
“It’s a frequent problem during monsoon. Despite our attempts we have failed to keep this species away from human habitation,” Dehradun forest division sub-divisional officer (SDO) Gulbeer Singh told Hindustan Times.
Over 50 people have been killed in elephant attacks since the state’s formation in 2000 till December 2015. Official statistics suggest an increase in the elephant population in the state — from 1,559 in 2012 to 1,797 in 2015.
The authorities have dug trenches and constructed solar fences to keep the elephants at bay. However, both initiatives failed.
Later, chief minister Harish Rawat asked forest officers to make a three-tier system in villages adjoining forest divisions, comprising electric fencing, trenches and cemented walls to keep elephants out, but this proposal has remained largely on paper, ostensibly due to a lack of funds.
“We need a proper mechanism to keep elephants away. This can only be achieved if the department identifies sensitive spots and works towards engaging the three-tier system,” forest guards association general secretary RR Panuily said.