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  • Published 15.12.12

Guwahati/Tezpur, Dec. 14: The Assam government today said it would install solar power fencing to check the increase in straying of elephants from their shrinking habitats into human settlements.

Forest minister Rakibul Hussain made the commitment while answering a query posed by Congress legislator S. Basumatary regarding elephant depredation in Goalpara district, on the concluding day of the five-day Assembly session.

After listing the steps being taken by his department to minimise losses, Hussain announced the move to install solar fences in elephant-affected areas of the state as well as Dispur’s plan to hike the present Rs 1 lakh compensation provided to the kin of those who die in elephant attacks.

Outside the Assembly, Hussain told The Telegraph that elephant depredation was a serious issue. “As many as 62 deaths have been reported sin-ce January owing to elephant attacks. The districts affected included Jorhat, Nagaon, Goalpara, Sonitpur, Darrang. We will be setting up the fence wherever required,” he said.

Solar power fencing keeps intruders away by giving them a short but safe shock if they come in contact with the fence. Unlike electric fencing, there is no chance of electrocution, sources said.

According to the minister, there were 5,620 elephants in Assam according to the 2011 elephant census. In April, The Telegraph had reported that the forest department was mulling installing solar fences along a 5km stretch along the Brahmaputra under the Jorhat forest division.

The announcement came on a day when a rhino created havoc in Biswanath Charali in Sonitpur district. The rhino, which had strayed from the Kaziranga National Park, killed two cattle before entering a sugarcane field at Nabapur. Sonitpur East divisional forest officer A.K. Dey said the crowd of onlookers had prevented the forest personnel from driving away the rhino.

On the other hand, a two-year-old elephant calf was tranquillised and treated for injuries in two of its legs at Behali tea estate in Sonitpur district by a team from Wildlife Research Conservation, Kaziranga. The calf had got separated from a herd of around 35 that was creating terror in the Behali and Borgong areas, 135km from Tezpur, for the past few days.