Bhopal: The Madhya Pradesh forest department has prepared a composite plan to check the wild elephants menace, which has become a serious issue especially in areas sharing the forest zone with neighbouring state Chhattisgarh. The increasing number of wild elephants and their attacks on people and destroying farmers’ paddy has became a big nuisance. Finding a permanent solution now seems a herculean task for the forest department.
A team of Madhya Pradesh forest officials had recently visited Karnataka to study and prepare a plan for this purpose. A senior forest official told IANS that the department has prepared a composite plan and the report has been submitted to the state government. The proposed plan is likely to be discussed during the monsoon session of the assembly.
In its proposal, the forest department has recommended additional allocation of funds to implement the scheme, to be provided by the Centre and the state government on a 60:40 ratio.
The step has been taken after Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in a meeting with forest officials recently expressed concern over the wild elephants menace and directed the department to find a permanent solution to this issue.
The department has proposed to set up ‘Hathi Mitra’, where local youths will be trained and provided the necessary equipment to defend themselves against elephant attacks. “At least four to five youths from the affected villages will be trained, who will be tasked to monitor the location of elephants and alert the people,” a senior official told IANS.
The forest department has also recommended ‘beekeeping’ in villages located near the forest zones. Officials are of the view that since elephants fear bees, this step can be a better option. “Villagers will be provided financial assistance by the state government for beekeeping,” an official said.
Further, the forest department has planned to confine wild elephants within a limited area and for this purpose a particular area would be earmarked where food will be provided to the elephants. Officials believe that elephants take village routes in search of food and if they are provided food within an earmarked zone, they will not come out of the forest.
The department has also recommended that the government build ‘pucca houses’ in the elephant affected areas, so that people can find a safe place to shelter from elephant attacks.
However, wildlife activists who spoke to IANS, had different views.
Ajay Dube, a wildlife activist, said that the idea of beekeeping may be dangerous. “Suppose, bees attack the elephants, in which case the elephants can become more ferocious and run amok towards villages. If that happens, it would be impossible to control them. Similarly, the idea of building pucca houses will not be a concrete solution. Recently in West Bengal, elephants demolished a concrete building where food for mid-day meals was stored.”
Dube claimed that the elephant menace cannot be contained in Madhya Pradesh until the state government, the forest department and the wildlife department together prepare an inter-state strategy for this purpose. “Most of these elephants come from neighbouring states — Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The MP government should chalk out an inter-state plan with these states. The entire Shahdol division is affected by the wild elephants menace and this area is closely connected with Chhattisgarh.”
Madhya Pradesh is part of the central Indian elephant habitat. The habitat extends over 21,000 sq km in the states of Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and southern West Bengal, at times extending to Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, and holds a population of over 3,000 elephants.
The report highlights that elephants also stray into Madhya Pradesh’s eastern districts of Singrauli and Anuppur from bordering northern Chhattisgarh.