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Illegal migrants from Bangladesh entering India is a contentious issue between both neighbours. While New Delhi contends large-scale influx from across the border, Dhaka has denied these migrants are their citizens.
There was no such difference though when officials of both nations agreed on Thursday to construct gates along the border to allow ‘free and safe passage’ for wild elephants.
Setting up of the gates was one of the 18 points of action agreed between both countries at the 2nd Indo-Bangladesh dialogue on trans-boundary conservation of elephants held at Shillong.
“Trans-border migration of animals is a natural process. But due to erection of border fences, there have been occasions when elephants have broken barriers to continue on their route. The gates will allow them safe passage,” India’s director general of forest Siddhanta Das told HT.
Officials have identified 12 points in Meghalaya and one in Assam along the border, which are used by wild elephants to travel to Bangladesh, where the gates will be constructed.
It is estimated nearly 20 pachyderms from India move to Bangladesh annually around winter and return later.
“We will be tracking these animals and use the services of security and forest personnel on both sides of the border to ensure that the elephants don’t face any problems,” said Das.
Construction of the gates, which would require cutting of border fencing between both countries at some points, is expected to be over before the 3rd round of the dialogue on the issue in Dhaka next year.
Both countries also agreed to discourage and regulate construction of electric fences to protect crops in the areas which fall in the routes taken by the elephants to prevent deaths due to electrocution.
Measures to prevent or bring down incidents of human-elephant conflict while the pachyderms crisscross between both countries, such as setting up warning systems and planting of trees to act as bio-fence, were also discussed.
There are nearly 9,000 wild elephants in the northeast region, around 1800 of them in Meghalaya alone, and sometimes they venture to Bangladesh in search of food or mates.
Last year, a wild elephant was swept away to Bangladesh by the flooded waters of Brahmaputra from Dhubri in Assam. The animal, named Banga Bahadur by people in Bangladesh, died after 50 days of efforts between two countries to bring it back.