| File picture of a herd of elephants at a forest in Orissa |
Cuttack, July 6: A farmer’s fight for compensation for large-scale destruction in his mango garden by marauding wild elephants is at the centre of a dispute raised before Orissa High Court over inadequate precautionary measures by the state government to check elephant depredation and it’s liability to pay damages.
The dispute had reached the court after a farmer from western Orissa filed a petition seeking Rs 10 lakh compensation for the destruction of hundreds of fruit bearing trees and young trees in his mango garden by wild elephants.
Krushna Chandra Pradhan, 55, of Charmal in Sambalpur district has claimed that a herd of wild elephants had, on April 3 and 4, invaded his mango garden sprawling over 6.71 acres and destroyed nearly 500 fruit-bearing mango trees and 200 young mango trees, causing “huge loss that cannot be compensated in coming ten years”. The court has not yet taken up the petition for hearing.
Pradhan has made the claim along with the inquiry report of the Charmal police station and joint verification report of the local revenue inspector and forest officials. The mango farmer had turned to the court last week after filing representations to the collector, divisional forest officer (Rairakol) and the secretary forest and environment department.
The case assumes significance as human interference into elephant habitat and non-availability of food in recent years had forced the elephants to sneak into human habitation. This has caused both loss of human lives and elephants besides destruction of houses and crops.
Forest department records show that from 1994 to March 2004, there were 2,888 instances of elephant depredation. In the last six years, however, the number of cases of elephant-caused damage to life and property has nearly doubled, including the death of 402 people and the destruction of nearly 8,900 hectares of crops.
The state had appointed 51 elephant depredation squads, including 98 elephant trackers who inform villagers about elephant herds moving in their direction and teach them about the appropriate action to be taken. Six trained elephants have been employed to drive back herds into the forests. Along with intelligence gathering from villagers regarding “wildlife crimes”, elephant-proof barriers are being erected in vulnerable areas.