Shillong, Dec. 27: Human-elephant conflicts continue to displace many villagers in Meghalaya’s Garo hills.
A police report said on December 17, a herd of wild elephants destroyed the house of Menjing Sangma and four others at Kalapara village in West Garo Hills.
On December 21, wild elephants attacked Colon M. Sangma at Rongdong village in South Garo Hills. The victim who sustained injuries was shifted to the civil hospital in Tura.
A forest department official today said the victims’ families can claim compensation according to rules set up by the government.
The official, however, admitted that the government was yet to adopt any long-term strategy to deal with frequent incidents of human-elephant conflict.
Last year, an injured wild elephant went on the rampage in many villages and killed four in the forest area near Selsella in West Garo Hills.
The incident forced the villagers to abandon the place for some days.
According to the official, the main reason for the conflict is the encroachment of forest areas used by elephants to move from one place to another.
Many of these areas have been used for cultivation.
To reduce human-elephant conflict, Garo hills-based Samrakshan Trust, an NGO, is on the job to help the villagers.
According to the NGO, human-elephant conflicts occur because of conversion of barren lands for crop production in ways that are not compatible with the survival of the elephants.
These include monoculture cash crops such as cashew, areca nut, rubber, coffee and tea; horticulture crops such as pineapple, citrus and temperate fruits and spices such as ginger, and cardamom.
Such conversion permanently denudes forests and drastically reduce the habitat suitable for the elephants to meet their ecological requirements.
The focus of Samrakshan Trust’s initiative is a “win-win” situation where farmers benefit from better yields without drastic change in use of land.
Kamal Medhi, the team manager of the NGO has recently said that learning from various experiences in the Northeast that have had similar objectives under comparable circumstances, “we are attempting to assist farmers to intensively cultivate small plots of land with a judicious combination of food and commercial crops”.