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Forest Dept mulls use of modern tech

 Staff Reporter

GUWAHATI, March 15 - The State Forest Department is considering the use of modern technology like installation of sensor-based barriers, construction of overpass and underpass and also mobile-based information sharing between villagers and forest officials to track the movement of elephant herds in order to check man-elephant conflicts in Assam.Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma today told the State Assembly that solar-powered electric fencing has been erected at vulnerable locations to avoid damage to life and property by depredating pachyderms.

Responding to a question by BJP MLA Ranoj Pegu, the minister said that altogether 92 persons lost their lives in man-elephant conflicts in the year 2016-17, while two elephant deaths were recorded due to poisoning and another elephant died due to electrocution.


In the subsequent year (2017-18), 57 people died in man-elephant conflicts while eight pachyderms were poisoned to death.


The minister also said that 1,752 houses were damaged in such conflicts in 2016-17, while crops on 634.6 hectares of land belonging to 1,208 families were destroyed. On the other hand, in 2017-18 elephants damaged 1,794 houses and destroyed crops on 1246.1 hectares of land belonging to 2,194 families.


On the issue of compensation to affected families, the minister said that ex gratia were paid to the kin of the deceased as per the existing norms during the time of deaths.


“During the Congress rule, the ex gratia amount was Rs 1 lakh, which was later changed to Rs 4 lakh during the BJP rule,” she added.


Pegu, while raising the matter of compensation for damaged houses, said that the compensation rates should be fixed in tandem with the SDRF rates for the damages done during any natural calamity.


Congress’ Roselina Tirkey brought up the issue of crop insurance in the areas frequented by herds of wild elephants.


In her reply, the minister also made a mention of some other measures to mitigate man-elephant conflicts, including creation of elephant Anti-Depredation Squad (ADS), deployment of Kunki (trained elephants to monitor the movement of wild elephants and to chase them away from croplands.


“In each of the elephant corridors, coordination committees have been constituted comprising the representatives of revenue, police, forest and transport departments, PWD, APDCL, Railways and NGOs, with the DC of the area concerned as the chairman, to minimise the conflicts and facilitate information sharing,” she added.


Source: The Assam Tribune, Guwahati, Friday, March 16, 2018