Taming the wild: Development chokes the jumbos (India, Assam)


The NorthEast Today

Date Published
GUWAHATI: In the past two months, a total of ten elephants including a calf have lost life in Deopahar area of Numaligarh in Golaghat district of Assam adjoining the world famous Kaziranga National Park. Shocking report says, four out of the six elephants had embraced death due to starvation and four of them died while trying to obstruct a wall build by the Numaligarh Refinery nearby. Elephants in Assam that already face a threat of the poachers are now surrendering to the development plan of the corporate and the government in a Non Development Zone
133.5 kilometre of the Deopahar Proposed Reserved Forest have been declared as Eco-Sensitive Zone which is home to 110 elephants according to a latest census. According to a Ministry of Environment and Forests declaration in 1996, this area is marked as a ‘No Development Zone’.
But a two kilometer with barbed-wire fencing and razor edges built by the NRL inside the international Elephant corridor situated in Telgaram area of Numaligarh has become the death demon of the elephants in Deopahar. The wall is erected for the golf course built by the company in five acres of land in the ‘no development zone’.
“Earlier the elephants used to come down to the Nambor-Doigrung wildlife sanctuary in Karbi Anglong district. They used to come down in herds in search of food and water during the night and used to go back to the Deopahar hills after few hours. But the wall is currently blocking their way and restricting them to have food and water. Already four have died out of hunger and I fear many elephants will die in near future’ says a forest official of Kaziranga National Park.
Telgaram, where the refinery is situated serves as a transit point for the elephants between Kaziranga and Karbi Anglong.
“Now that the animals cannot go out of the area due to the wall they often come to our village and destroy our houses. The conflict is rising and both the villagers and elephants are vulnerable.” said, Naba Bora, a villager of nearby Na-Pathar village.
The Divisional Forest Officer, Golaghat, vide letter no. B/13/NRL Const/1295-98 dated 02/05/15 has asked the NRL authority, Guwahati to take immediate action and remove the barrier constructed illegally that is blocking the normal movement of elephants in the area.
Praneswar Das, , Ranger of Golaghat division has said, “The Government of Assam vide a notification declared the forest of Deupahar as the Proposed Reserved forest in 18th August 1999 which also includes the elephant corridor which falls in NH 39 extension township. But NRL has closed down the elephant corridor. They have constructed the golf course in a strictly a no development zone. NRL brought into its possession a stretch of Deopahar PRF and has tried to secure it by constructing a boundary wall on this traditional elephant corridor.”
The construction of golf course in the northern side of the refinery also violates the norms of the National Green Tribunal. The National Green Tribunal has pulled up the Numaligarh Refinery for this violation. It has also slammed the Refinery for cutting off trees for construction purpose.
The Tribunal is to hear the second plea filed by a Assam resident Rohit Choudhary seeking directions to immediately demolish the wall constructed by Numaligarh Refinery Limited and stop tree felling on November 5th.
Telgaram, where the refinery is situated, is known for its elephant habitations. This area has served as a transit for elephants in between Kaziranga and Karbi Anglong. With the establishment of NRL in the area in the 90s, elephant depredation reached an alarming proportion. Incidents of man-elephant conflict only increased over the years resulting in casualties on both sides.
Out of the 10 elephants four elephants have already lost their lives trying to cross over this wall. Forest officials say that with this construction in the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong corridor, the movement of these elephants is severely restricted.
Forest officials have also added that with the restricted movement of the elephants, the risk of in breeding has increased. This will result in deleterious genes in future generations.