Govt plans to buy plantations to restore elephant corridors (Bengaluru, India)


Sandeep Moudgal, Times of India

Date Published

In the wake of increasing human-elephant conflict in Hassan, Kodagu and Chikkamagaluru districts, the state forest department has decided to acquire coffee and tea plantations to curb such conflicts and ensure a safe passage for jumbos.

The department mooted this proposal after some coffee and tea planters volunteered to give up their land as they’re unable to cope with many problems including acute labour shortage, weak prices and rising maintenance cost of their estates.

But planters are not ready to give up their plantations cheaply. “The offers have started to come, with one from Sakleshpura for about 2,300 acres that would cost approximately Rs 300 crore,” principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) Vinay Luthra said.

With a recent amendment to the Forest Development Tax (FDT), funds needed to buy these estates would not be an issue, said Luthra. The department can rake in up to Rs 600 crore per annum through FDI and utilise it for purchase of properties.

Wildife experts welcomed the idea but expressed caution, citing that the purchase of properties should be done scientifically.

“While it is a good start, the purchase of properties must be taken up after a peer review and an expert panel on elephant habitats giving its approval that such parcels of land are a good investment,” said wildlife expert Pradeep Bhargava.

Bhargava said forest minister Ramanath Rai and the department had held a consultative meeting in Mysuru in December 2015. He said the starting point should be the linking of Bandipur, Nagarahole, Brahmagiri, Satyamanagala, BRT Hills and Mudumalai.

Forest authorities have been holding talks with corporates to seek their assistance through their Corporate Social Responsibility funds to restoreg elephant corridors and other wildlife conservation projects.

Luthra, however, said the department doesn’t plan to buy all 2,300 acres in Sakleshpur. The purchase will be based on a study done by wildlife scientist Raman Sukumar. The study has identified 88 traditional elephant corridors in India.

“We’ll restore only those areas where there is a possibility of restoring the traditional corridors. Our biggest concerns are in and around the Bhadra Reserve, Hassan and Kodagu and the department will buy properties in these region on top priority,” he added.

Luthra said the primary reason for people selling their properties is the difficulty in maintaining coffee estates and tea gardens. “Most people in Kodagu, Chikkamagalur, Hassan and other parts of the coffee- and tea-growing belts are old-timers. With their children living abroad and labour becoming increasingly difficult to procure, they have come forward with offers to the forest department for selling their land. It’s a good way for us to resolve this man-animal conflict,” said the PCCF.

The forest department also took measures recently to ensure that new constructions don’t come up in the elephant corridors or affect elephant movement in the forest area. The department has also interlocked forest ranges across the Western Ghats to ensure the smooth passage of elephants.


* The purchase of land must be strategic and it needs to be taken up on a project mode. Dedicated forest persons should be involved in the process and land should be procured after taking into account the valuation of the location and not any other factor.

Pradeep Bhargava | wildlife expert

* This is a start. The proposal may not solve the problems immediately, but it will help in the long term to end the human-animal conflict in the state.