National Heritage Animal Under Severe Threat In Odisha Due To Electrocution – No Field Patrols To Save Elephants

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Bhubaneswar: The Wildlife Society of Orissa today held a press conference in the matter of the multiple cases of Elephant deaths due to electrocution. Odisha was once known for its magnificent elephants and was raided by many kings including the Mughals for its prized war elephants. Due to habitat loss, relentless conflict with humans and a host of unnatural reasons, Odisha has now turned into a graveyard of elephants. Among the many unnatural reasons like poaching, electrocution, train & road kills and even falling into open well, electrocution deaths is among the top two leading causes for unnatural deaths.
Angul district has emerged as a hotspot for electrocution having lost five elephants since September 2017 . Two were killed in last 10 days alone by electrocution and one decomposed body was found without any known cause inside Satkosia Tiger Reserve.
Since the year 2000, Odisha has lost 167 elephants to electrocution. Between 2000 and 2010, there were 77 electrocution deaths, mostly due to sagging power lines averaging less than 8 elephants in a year. During this period the government had not taken any preventive steps to control electrocutions. From 2010 onwards, despite some preventive steps taken by the government, including allocation of adequate funds for strengthening of power lines, the electrocution death rates have not come down. From 1.4.2010 to 21.8.2018 (8 years) the state has lost 90 elephants to electrocution, averaging nearly 11 elephants in a year.
Live wire poaching traps, sagging overhead lines and electrified fences are the three methods of electrocution of elephants in Odisha. 63 % of the electrocution deaths are now due to live wire poaching. Before 2010, majority of the unnatural elephant deaths, approximately 80% , were due to sagging power lines. Since 2010 out of 90 electrocution deaths, 33 were due to sagging lines, 57 were due to Live Wire Poaching which reveals absence of patrolling.
Nearly 15 % of the total elephant deaths in Odisha is due to electrocution and among all the unnatural causes of elephant deaths, 41 % is due to electrocution. This is due to the non-adherence to the CEA norms and Indian Electricity Rules 1956, by the Distcoms. The Distcoms violate Central Electricity Authority (CEA) guidelines for laying and maintenance of 11/33 KV transmission/distribution lines in area critical for wildlife. Rule 77 is violated which provides minimum ground clearance for conductor at various places like across streets, along streets and other places at minimum of 4.6 metres . Lack of Testing of all apparatus, cables and supply lines periodically . No Earth Leakage Circuit breaker (ELCBs) to disconnect the supply instantly on occurrence of earth fault and no safety fuse or isolated lines either. This was an important recommendation of the four member expert MoeFCC committee in 2010. RTI information about inspection of power lines of for the period from 1st April’2011 to 15th December’2016 (nearly six years) obtained on 4.2.2017 revealed no inspections.
The Forest Department’s too is lacking in the monitoring and prevention of elephant electrocution. Sagging Lines are not detected and reported to the Distcoms and not followed up till they are rectified even if they are reported. There is no local reward system to prevent any hooking for live wire poaching. Not a single Distcom official has been convicted and jailed under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 despite death of more than 100 elephants caused by sagging overhead lines. There is a need to set up reinforced electric poles fitted with spikes to prevent elephants rubbing against them and lifting of sagging overhead power lines. The overhead wires across all elephant habitats and movement zones should be insulated and defunct Solar Powered Fences should be removed. .
The WSO demands that the Forest Minister to monitor elephant protection on a monthly basis and fix responsibility for elephant deaths so that field officials take serious steps to protect elephants.

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