An alert Dhanbad forest department has started taking measures to minimise damages inflicted by marauding elephants that had been visiting the district for the past six years.
At least, two watchtowers will be put up in two places of Tundi in March for which a survey of areas vulnerable to elephant attacks is being conducted. Solar lights will be installed in at least 15 villages in Tundi and Topchanchi.
The move comes after the forest department headquarters in Ranchi recently cleared a proposal submitted by Dhanbad DFO Satish Rai in January last year.
“The watchtowers will come up in two strategic points atop the hills in Tundi block so that movement of elephants can be effectively monitored. For this, a survey of different hilly regions of Tundi is on. A forest department team also visited the place on Wednesday,” said Rai.
On installation of solar lights, the DFO said it would not be a problem as they had already approached Jharkhand Renewable Energy Development Agency. “Though initially, we had planned to set up solar lights in around 150 villages of Tundi, Topchanchi and Rajganj, we will start with 15 as of now,” Rai said.
This apart, the department is planning to train villagers on how to drive away elephants with help of torches. The DFO, in his proposal, had demanded funds for procuring dragon torches, kerosene, petrol, tyres et al.
Lives were lost and property badly damaged when a herd of 18 elephants came calling to Dhanbad in October 2011 and overstayed for more than nine months before finally returning to Jamtara from where they had arrived.
Besides damaging crops in more than 200 villages spanning Tundi, Topchanchi and Rajganj, the herd also killed three persons — Santosh Mahto of Dhoatand village in Rajganj, Hiralal Baski of Dongapani, Tundi, and Shanti Devi, a resident of Dubeydih village in Giridih district — during its stay.
The hapless forest department had to summon men from Bankura on more than six occasions to fend off the elephants every time they strayed into human habitats.
The herd from Jamtara was first spotted in Tundi in 2005 after which it started coming every year. However, locals claimed elephants never visited the area before 2005, which suggests that the animals have found out a new migratory route.