Borjhar, Oct. 20: The state forest department will soon put up an electric fence on a 20km stretch at Rani in Kamrup district along the Assam-Meghalaya border to prevent wild elephants from entering the area and damaging paddy fields.
The fence will initially cover a 2km stretch. Amal Sarma, divisional forest officer of East Kamrup forest division, who visited the area today, said a survey had been carried out and a proposal would be submitted to the principal chief conservator, wildlife.
“The fencing will be done in a phased manner to tackle the problem of elephants raiding crops and often attacking people in the villages on the forest fringes,” Sarma said, adding it would be under Project Elephant.
The fence will run from Belguri to Nalapara, which is one of the major conflict zones along Jarasal and Kawashing reserve forests. The senior forest officer interacted with the affected farmers who insisted on putting up the fence without delay.
Depredation by wild elephants in the area has worsened in recent years. More than 20 people have been trampled and about 40 injured in attacks at Rani in the past decade.
There are an estimated 5,620 wild elephants in the state. There is a significant population of elephants along the inter-state habitat (6,850 square km) which covers Kamrup and Goalpara districts in Assam and five districts of Meghalaya such as Ri Bhoi, West Khasi Hills, East Garo Hills, West Garo Hills and South Garo Hills.
Dinesh Das, secretary of the Sangrami Krishak Sramik Sangha, however, demanded an electric fence on a 4km stretch instead of 2km in the first phase. “A 4km fence will serve the purpose of curbing the menace to the desired level,” Das said. Eleven districts of the state are affected by elephant depredation. A fence has already been put up in Nagaon and Golaghat districts under the rapid action project, which was implemented by the forest department and the Wildlife Trust of India.
With the harvesting season on the anvil, farmers are spending sleepless nights atop trees guarding their shelters and paddy fields from marauding herds.
“We have tried our best to chase away the herds by bursting crackers and lighting bamboo sticks. But the elephants still run amok,” Dilip Das, a farmer who was injured after being attacked by a herd recently, told this correspondent.
Faced with an alarming rise of such attacks, over 100 farmers of Jaipur, Hatigarh and Rajapara along the interstate border had to give up farming.
The Northeast has 58 elephant corridors, comprising 35 per cent of the country. The elephant population ranges between 9,305 and 9,355 in the region.
Assam environment and forest minister Rakibul Hussain had asked WWF-India to submit an operational plan for man-elephant conflict mitigation in the state’s forest divisions.
Hussain said after the submission of the plan, he would take it up with the divisional forest officers and chief wildlife warden and ensure better fund flow to curb the conflict.