Elephant deaths: Finally, officials say it is time for a review (Kodagu District, India)


The Hindu

Date Published
Following the electrocution of six elephants in a span of two weeks in Kodagu, the Forest Department and the Chamundeshwari Electricity Supply Corporation (CESC) have decided to review and ascertain the efficacy of all the measures in place to reduce unnatural death of elephants in the district.

The authorities have also decided to have coordination committee meetings once in three months between the managing director of CESC and the Conservator of Forests, besides holding fortnightly and monthly meetings of the Deputy Conservator of Forests and executive engineers in areas known to have high concentration of elephants.

These and other measures were agreed upon during a meeting of senior officials of the Forest Department and CESC held in Madikeri on Wednesday. The meeting was called on the heels of the death of four female elephants at a private estate in Kodagu district that came to light on Tuesday. The foraging elephants had come in contact with a sagging high-tension wire and been electrocuted. Two other elephants died under similar circumstances at Kanangala village in Virajpet taluk of Kodagu a fortnight ago.

Conservator of Forests Manoj Kumar told The Hindu that a team of CESC and Forest Department officials would be constituted to tour and identify areas with sagging power lines and initiate measures to fix them. The CESC has also deputed an executive engineer as nodal officer to interact with Forest Department staff and receive complaints pertaining to power line issues. Meanwhile, a two-member committee will investigate how the six elephants died. It is expected to submit a report within a week.

Mr. Kumar said the CESC has agreed to explore underground cabling in areas where elephants tend to move but where new lines are to be drawn. The gap between poles connecting the existing lines is said to be too much, which is why lines sag. The power utility has agreed to reduce this with additional poles, he said.

The High Court of Karnataka had recommended that detailed annual reviews of the implementations be held at the field and State levels, besides subjecting the plans to a five-yearly technical review. But wildlife activists say no such reviews have taken place since the court directives were issued in 2013.

Meanwhile, the Forest Department is considering the death of the elephants as an accident. It said the pachyderms may have died after stepping on sagging transmission lines passing through the estate. It said Kodagu, being a high rainfall zone, has a high risk of breakage of transmission lines during monsoon. Department officials, quoting local CESC staff, said that on an average 20 to 25 such instances of breakage in transmission lines are reported every day in Kodagu during monsoon.