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Jumbo deaths cause concern

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 11: Odisha forest minister Bijoyshree Routray today admitted in the state Assembly that 15 elephants had been killed in Odisha during the past three years because of electrocution.

“At a few places, villagers are putting up barbed wire fences around their paddy fields and illegally charging electricity to prevent entry of elephants.

“Wild elephants are also getting electrocuted when they come in contact with sagging high-tension electricity cables,” said the minister.

“As the distance between the electric poles is more than the required limit, electric cables tend to sag,” he said.

The minister said steps were being taken to put up intermittent dropping poles to prevent sagging of cables and stop jumbos from being killed.

Besides, the power distribution companies have been advised to install circuit breakers to prevent electrocution of wild animals, said the minister.

Cutting across party lines, the legislators voiced their concern over the growing elephant casualties in the state.

Official statistics show that as many as 150 elephants have been killed in Odisha in the past seven years.

Routray said the state government had sent a proposal to the Centre seeking financial assistance of Rs 32 crore for remedial measures.

But the Centre had turned down the proposal, he said.

“However, the state government will carry on implementation of preventive measures out of its own resources,” he said.

The state government has notified 14 elephant corridors and steps are being taken to protect them.

Plantation programmes are being take up to regenerate denuded dense forests.

During the current year, 214 ponds are being dug in forest areas while renovation of 178 ponds that were already there is on, he said.

However, the Odisha government has claimed that the elephant population has gone up in the state.

According to the 2012 census, the state has 1,930 elephants now as against 1,886 in 2010.

The increase is attributed to high number of births, rather than steps initiated to prevent their deaths, say wildlife activists.