With the deaths of over a hundred elephants in a year due to unnatural reasons like being hit by trains and electrocution, followed by the deaths of close to a hundred human beings in conflict with elephants in a year, Assam is seemingly looking at a jumbo problem with no immediate solution in sight.
Assam's jumbo problem: Man-animal conflict takes a huge toll
"We are concerned about the deaths of wild elephants as well as humans due to the conflict. Steps are being taken by the department to stop the menace of human-elephant conflict as well as to stop other elephant deaths in the state," Assam Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma said.
Giving details of the steps taken by the department to stop the human and elephant deaths, the minister said that while the department is making efforts to use modern technologies like use of sensor-based barriers on the railway tracks. Efforts are also on to develop a mobile app for use by villagers as well as the forest officials in each district so that information about the movement of elephant herds could be shared.
"Solar powered electric fencing has also been created at some places to avoid damage to life and property by depredating animals," Brahma said.
A staggering 463 human beings have been killed by wild animals from 2013 to 2017 across the state. The maximum incidents occurred in Udalguri district, which recorded the death of 86 humans in the six-year period. Similarly, 374 persons, including women and children, have been injured during raids by wild elephants on human habitations in during 2013-2017. Most of the injuries were recorded in Sonitpur district.
According the statistics maintained by the forest department, close to a hundred elephants are being killed due to different incidents across Assam every year. The statistics, maintained by the wildlife NGOs however, did not match and said that more elephants are killed every year die to poaching, speeding trains, poisoning, electrocution and so on.
"We have also created elephant anti-depredation squads to lessen the conflict in the districts. Local villagers are also being sensitized by organising awareness programmes and intensive patrolling is being carried out in areas where the problem is greater," the minister said, adding that the department has also distributed fire crackers, kerosene oil and torches among the villagers to assist in the anti-depredation activities.
The minister further revealed that the Assam government has paid compensation of Rs 4.79 crore to 414 affected families during 2011-2017.