Bokaro district forest officer Manish Arvind (right) talks to Kasmar villagers on Thursday. Pictures by Pankaj Singh
Bokaro district has mooted an electrifying solution to rein in rogue elephants at a cost of Rs 3.48 crore in a principal corridor between Jharkhand and Bengal, while hiking compensation for the next of kin in case of a fatal jumbo attack from Rs 1 lakh to Rs 2 lakh.
To check elephant attacks on homes, crops and people, Bokaro forest department sent a proposal to its state counterpart to install electrical fencing on 24sqkm area in border zones of Kasmar and Jaridih blocks that touch Bengal’s Purulia district.
The proposal, mooted by district forest officer (DFO) Manish Arvind, also asks for a dozen solar lights in border villages so that elephant herds can be seen at night.
These apart, the DFO wants a massive afforestation drive across 50sqkm on Jaridih and Kasmar blocks so that the giant mammals don’t need to enter villages for fodder. Arvind has also advocated check dams and over three dozen watering holes to be constructed for wild herds to quench their thirst on the migration route.
On the compensation issue, members of village forest committees in Kasmar and Jaridih blocks held a meeting on Thursday with forest department officials. They requested officials to award Rs 75,000 and Rs 5 lakh as compensation for injury and death caused by elephant attack, as well as a hike in the amount given to those whose crops and homes were damaged.
DFO Arvind said the new compensation amounts were Rs 2 lakh for death and Rs 50,000 for injury, significantly higher than the earlier amounts of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 33,000.
But he also stressed on an attitudinal change.
“Villagers should not consider elephants as enemies. True, some have a terrible track record, but many are well behaved. Forest department officers are trying to check man-animal conflict. We will begin a pilot project to rehabilitate elephants who have a history of rampage. Funds will be required for fencing to confine elephants within a restricted zone and to arrange fodder for them, for which the proposal has been sent to Ranchi,” said the DFO.
Since the formation of Jharkhand, 33 people have died due to elephant attack in the past 12 years and at least 104 have been injured. Standing crops and homes have been damaged regularly.
In 2007-08, on the advice of Jharkhand forest department electrical fencing was done in 12sqkm area between two villages, one in Kasmar and the other in Jaridih, but poor maintenance as well as marauding herds of elephants in search of fodder and water damaged the wires permanently.