Seven wild elephants were electrocuted due to a sagging 11 KV line near Kamalanga village of Dhenkanal district late Friday night. The tragic incident has once again brought to the fore the careless attitude of the authorities concerned as the electric line was barely 5 ft above the ground. The elephants electrocuted included a tusker, a mother and its less than one-year-old calf, and four females, said top forest officers who were at the spot on Saturday morning.
A herd of 21 elephants had moved out of the forest towards the nearby paddy field when seven of them came in contact with the live wire and died, they said.
“It is appalling. The electric supply remained switched on even after the mishap and till noon on Saturday despite instructions that power supply should be shut down,” said a forest official.
Villagers, including the sarpanch and others, said they had repeatedly drawn the attention of the electricity department people towards the drooping overhead line. Rectification by way of a bamboo or a pole would have averted the tragedy, they said.
Forest Minister Bijayshree Routray described the incident as “most unfortunate”.
“We lost seven elephants due to the sheer negligence of central electricity supply utility. The electricity supply authority was repeatedly warned about the sagging lines both by the forest department and the people of the area,” he said. The Minister informed that cases will be registered against those responsible for such callousness.
Official sources said even last month there was a state-level coordination committee meeting where specifics like sagging electricity lines, particularly in the elephant corridor and movement areas of Dhenkanal and Angul district had been raised with the concerned energy department officials. On October 12, the Regional Chief Conservator of Forest Angul, S Panda had asked power supply authorities to undertake cabling work in the Tiger reserve area.
Monthly meetings are held and yet nothing had been done resulting in such a tragic accident, informed the sources.
Documents exposed laxity as the Divisional Forest Officer had recently written to the electricity department authorities to rectify the sagging transmission line on the particular stretch from Kamalanga to Kaliakila.
In fact, the Additional Chief Secretary Forest Suresh Mahapatra had held a meeting in this regard in March where decisions were taken on electric transmission lines passing through elephant government areas in the state and that they should be insulated or cabled. DFOs across the state were asked to furnish a list of lines in such vulnerable areas.
The DFO Dhenkanal had given a proposal concerning a stretch of 136 km of LT lines.
More recently, on September 24, a coordination committee meeting between forest and electricity supply utilities was held where it was pointed out that cabling work has not been taken up in Dhenkanal- Angul area and the proposal had been pending since six months.
The central electricity supply utility officials said they will not comment as a detailed report from the spot is still pending.
“A senior general manager is on his way to the spot. We will give our response only after he submits his report,” said CESU officials at Bhubaneswar.