Every day at this time of the year, elephant herds, sometimes numbering more than 100, cross into Deomani Tea Estate and Singhijhora Tea Estate near the India-Nepal border in the wee hours. Locals forego their sleep to watch the pachyderms heading towards Bahundangi in Nepal in search of crops. But from now onwards, the elephants will no longer be able to cross into Bahundangi as the Nepal government has erected a 17km long solar fence.
Elephants in huge numbers migrate to Nepal each year from the forests of Assam and West Bengal. They pass through a long-used corridor to enter Bahundangi in Jhapa district of eastern Nepal after traversing through the forests of Panighatta and Sukna in Darjeeling district. The animals reach Kolabari near the border during maize harvesting time in the monsoons and rice cultivation time in winter.
Once in Kolabari, the elephants rest during the day and head towards Nepal at night in search of crops. But with the Nepal government erecting the solar fence to stop the giants from entering human settlements in Nepal, the elephants’ migration path has come to an abrupt halt. The fencing has kept the elephants at bay in Nepal, averting human-animal conflicts. But it has led to a surge in human-elephant conflict on the Indian side. The elephants, unable to cross into Nepal, are destroying crops and human settlements on the Indian side. Stakeholders in India have started demanding for a solution to the problem.