Elephant corridor plan hits speed breaker (India)


The Hindu

Date Published
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In 2010, the Odisha govt had identified 14 corridors to help the animals move without disturbance

Seven years after identifying 14 corridors to facilitate undisturbed movement of elephants between their habitats in the State, the Odisha government has not yet started executing the management plan for protection of fragmented forest patches.

‘Two steps back’

The government has also shown reluctance to give legal sanctity to these corridors by formally issuing notifications. Terming the move as being “one step forward and two steps back”, wildlife activists alleged the government was under pressure from the mining lobby.

“Notification of the 14 corridors will not entirely address the larger objective of conservation of elephants. Therefore, it is not necessary to notify corridors under any Act, but corridors are to be identified afresh based on the report of Asian Nature Conservation Fund, headed by eminent elephant expert R. Sukumar,” the government intimated the National Green Tribunal in an affidavit.

In 2010, the Odisha government had identified 14 corridors, which would not only have helped the elephants move without any disturbance, but also increase the chance of genetic diversity. The 14 corridors covered a total 870.6 sq km over nine different districts. During the survey, presence of elephants had been noticed in places where elephants had never been found before. Subsequently, another nine corridors were identified with the help of an expert.

Public money wasted

Management plans for the corridors were to then be executed from 2012-13 to 2017-18. However, the State forest department is now waiting for Dr. Sukumar’s recommendations.

“The State government has wasted Rs. 20.06 crore of public money for corridor management and improvement since five years. It is inconceivable why money should be spent on corridor management if the forest department is not sure of its viability or function,” said Biswajit Mohanty of Wildlife Society of Orissa, which had moved the NGT over the issue.

“Many corridors face threats from quarrying, railway lines, overhead electric lines and highways. For obvious reasons, there is a delay in notifying the corridors. Once notified, the government might be compelled to not allow mining,” Mr. Mohanty pointed out.