The Odisha government is considering a plan to constitute inter-departmental human-wildlife conflict mitigation committees at district level to curb the recurring conflict mostly involving elephants.
“It has been planned to form committees under the chairmanship of the collector with representatives of the superintendent of police and heads of relevant departments and the DFO as member secretary,” Dr. Manoj V. Nair, chief conservator of forests (additional charge) informed the Orissa High Court in an affidavit recently.
The state Forest Department on the directions of the high court has drawn up a “Comprehensive Action Plan for Conservation of Elephants and Mitigation of Human-Elephant Conflict in Odisha”.
The aspect of ‘Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation’ requires adoption of a ‘zone-based approach’ taking cue from the report of the Karnataka Elephant Task Force, the affidavit said.
Four broad zones, viz., Zone-I (Elephant Conservation Zone), Zone-II (Elephant-human Coexistence Zone), Zone-III (Conflict Mitigation Zone) and Zone-IV (Elephant Removal or Exclusion Zone) have been envisaged, according to the affidavit.
Separate strategies have been worked out for ‘protection, enforcement and prosecution’ as well as improving elephant habitat corridors and connectivity and people’s participation, education and awareness, it said.
The action plan also speaks of ‘habitat management for increased productivity’ which would involve improving the elephant habitat, plantation of bamboo, ficus and preferred elephant food plants, water sources and other habitat improvement measures apart from forest fire prevention.
There has been a rise in elephant deaths due to electrocution in recent months. To tackle this issue, the action plan proposes to involve the Electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOMs) to provide solar fencing using the recently launched “Jana Surakhya Gaja Rakhya”. One suggestion is for the use of portable (removable) solar fences which has been found to be effective in Sri Lanka and for it to be tried on a pilot basis in selected areas.
The Comprehensive Action Plan would require to be approved by the High Power Committee of the Government of Odisha.
The Orissa High Court, in a recent order asked the state government to immediately take up this issue of approval of the Comprehensive Action Plan without any delay and preferably within a period of two weeks.