Dhanbad, Oct. 22: Faced with rising human-elephant conflicts in Dhanbad, the district forest department has planned a Rs 9.5 crore temporary shelter project for the animals.
The department prepared the project proposal on a 30sqkm shelter in Tundi block, 15km from Dhanbad district headquarters, after a detailed survey and consultation with villagers.
The proposal, drafted at the district level, is awaiting a final nod from Jharkhand’s chief wildlife warden A.K. Mishra, who had conceptualised it.
The plan is to provide trench and electric fencing of the selected green patch with water bodies to restrict elephants to a comfortable place and prevent them from trampling on people, crops and homes.
“The trenches, between 6ft and 8ft deep, will stop elephants from straying out of the allocated area,” said district forest officer Satish Rai.
He added that in the unlikely event of the elephants crossing the trench, the electric fence would bar them.
“The barrier of electric wires will be powered by solar energy for continuous supply. The voltage will generate an uncomfortable shock to stop the elephants in their tracks,” Rai added.
Once water and fodder run out, forest guards will open the electric fence at a designated spot for an exit passage to help elephants migrate.
“Four elephant watchers will be deputed at every corner of the allocated area to keep track on elephant movement. Their other jobs will be to report damages to the electric fencing if elephants cross trenches, arrange fodder for the group and see if the water bodies are full,” said the DFO.
The senior forester said that they had been facing man-animal conflict since 2005, when elephants from Bengal’s Purulia started migrating to Dhanbad.
“Since the past three years, the problem has aggravated. From 2011, elephants stay not just for a couple of months, but some nine-10 months a year,” Rai said.
When elephants run out of fodder and water, they attack villages. Then, the forest department is caught in a bind as it has to protect both people and the endangered species.
“Last year, we had installed two watch towers at strategic locations of Tundi to track elephant movement so that people could be alerted before herds arrived. But the proposal of a temporary shelter is more comprehensive. Besides preventing man-animal clashes, it will save money spent on compensating loss of crops, houses and even human lives,” Rai said.
The forest department has applied before Jharkhand Renewable Energy Development Agency for solar lights in Tundi as wild elephants avoid well-lighted areas at night.