Even as elephant corridors in mineral-rich Keonjhar have been affected by mining activities, people in most parts of the district are at the receiving end of frequent elephant depredation.
People living in Champua range have lost their sleep over the menace, while the forest department has been unsuccessfully carrying out a drive to keep the pachyderms away from human habitations owing to shortage of funds from Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA).
According to a report, the animals continue to cause loss of lives and properties almost every day.
As soon as sun sets, elephants come out of forests to unleash a reign of terror in nearby human habitats. People have no way but to live amid terror, some even stay indoors. At nights, the farming people remain awake to save their paddy from the animals.
On the other hand, the forest department claims it is trying its best to keep the animals away from human habitations.
But locals alleged the drive has invariably floundered as the elephants, though driven out several times, come back again to villages only to cause more mayhem. No permanent solution is being made for the menace, they said.
The haphazardness of elephant-driving programme has been attributed to funds crunch. According sources, funds under CAMPA has not been made available to the forest department in 2015-16 for lack of co-ordination between the state and central governments.
A part of funds is utilised for deployment of forest teams and vehicles and purchase of fuel, firecrackers, torches and drums. Locals claim that they were not provided firecrackers, oil and torches, as required to drive the animals from the forest department.
Apart from utilization of funds for compensatory afforestation, the CAMPA funds can be utilised for forest protection, forest management and forest and wildlife-related infrastructure development, wildlife conservation and facilitating the relocation of people from protected wildlife areas.
Upset over the growing elephant menace, villagers of Kedragadia staged protests in front of the range officer Wednesday, demanding provision of more torches and firecrackers.
According to reports, a herd of eight elephants is holed up at Kutugaon for the last few days. These pachyderms have reportedly damaged several houses, crops and caused loss of properties and lives in areas like Brahmanijhari, Jaypur, Sanjoda, Champadihi, Hatibari, Deojhari, Kanakana.
The other areas where elephant menace has become routine included Mirigisingha, Mukundapur, Kodagadia, Saraspasi, Joda Pokhari, Giridharipur, Kasira, Basira, Kalika Praad, Kainta, Rajia, Patala, Hunjipasi, Naradpur, Raghualsahi, Ramachandrapur, Mangalpur and Jamudalaka.
On the other hand, wildlife activists and ecologists have blamed the elephant menace on the growing loss of habitats in the district. The animals also suffer casualties after straying out. According to a report, 98 elephants have died in last 16 years while over 200 people were killed by the animals in the period.
The major factors posing serious threat to elephant population are rampant illegal mining, fast deforestation, growing industrialisation and urbanisation, poaching, deliberate electrocution and train accidents.