843 elephants died in Odisha in 10 years: Forest and Environment Minister

Bhubaneswar: In the 10 years between 2010-11 and 2020-21, human-elephant conflicts caused death of 843 elephants in the State. The highest number of deaths of 93 elephants was reported in year 2018-19 and the lowest 54 was in the year 2014-15. Till March 22 this year, as many as 72 elephants perished.

In his reply in the State Assembly on March 30, to a question of BJP MLA from Keonjhar Mohan Charan Majhi, Forest and Environment Bikram Keshari Arukh placed the information.

To keep the human-elephant conflicts under check and ensure free movements of pachyderms, 122 ‘Gajbandhus’ have been appointed and a 24-hour control room has been opened in State Wildlife headquarters, the Minister said.To prevent elephants from entering human habitations during the financial year from 2014-15 to 2019-20, solar fencing of 1047.88 km has been done and 1,250.36 km trench was dug. In year 2020-21, 43 km solar fencing and 83.5 km trench were undertaken. While the OREDA provided technical assistance for solar fencing, local communities were involved in the special drive ‘Janasurakshya, Gajarakshya’ in PPP mode.

Arukh further told that the State Government has identified three Elephant Reserves like Sambalpur Elephant Reserve, Mahanadi Elephant Reserve and Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve and 14 Elephant Corridors for conservation efforts. During the last 10 years, crores have been spent from various budgetary provisions and from Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) funds in this regard, he said.The highest spending of Rs 241.38 lakh incurred from CAMPA funds was in year 2019-20. It was Rs 178.55 lakh in 2018-19, whereas in year 2010-11 it was only Rs 29.74 lakh.

For restoration of elephant corridors, in the year 2020-21 a total sum of Rs 121 lakh spent and 21,000 trees were planted in at least 35 hectares. But in financial years 2018-19 and 2019-20, there was no spending. To mitigate man-elephant conflict and smooth passage of elephants, 47 underpasses have been created in State Highways. However, to provide fodder for wildlife, from 2014-15 to 2019-20, fodder plants were planted in 607 hectares. Besides these, during this period also 895 ponds were dug and meadows created in 3,795 hectares, Forest Minister informed.