Environment Minister Urged To Take Stock Of Escalating Human-Elephant Conflict In Chhattisgarh
Cara Tejpal, Project Head of Sanctuary’s Mud On Boots programme calls on Environment Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan to take cognizance of the escalating human- elephant conflict in Chhattisgarh and take immediate steps toward the safety of humans and the protection of wildlife and wild habitats in the state.
Dr. Harsh VardhanUnion
Minister, Environment,Forest and Climate Change
Paryavaran Bhawan, Jor Bagh
New Delhi – 110003.
Subject: Fatal and escalating human-elephant conflict in Chhattisgarh.
Dear Dr. Harsh Vardhan,
I work with the Sanctuary Nature Foundation, a Mumbai based conservation organisation headed by environmentalist Bittu Sahgal. Here, I run the Mud on Boots Project, a programme designed to empower grassroots conservationists across the country.
As you know, human-elephant conflict (HEC) is a matter of grave concern across India's elephant range states. While many affected states are addressing the matter through the Forest Department and with the help of independent organisations and activists, there is an utterly inadequate response to the issue in the state of Chhattisgarh where human-elephant conflict has escalated to a devastating degree.
The degradation of wildlife habitats in Chhattisgarh, as well as its neighbouring states of Odisha and Jharkhand, has pushed wild elephants into close proximity to humans with deadly consequences. Property is regularly damaged, crops are destroyed, humans are killed and elephants are attacked.
The Dharamjaigarh block of Raigarh district is particularly badly affected with human deaths from elephants recorded every month. I have been notified of three human deaths in the Dharamjaigarh block within a span of two months alone. A 65-year-old Korwa tribal woman from Dahidod village was killed by an elephant on 28 July, 2018; Sumitra bai, another sexagenarian from Behramar village was killed by wild elephants on 24 August, 2018, during a three-day period in which a herd of elephants moved through the village; and the next day, on 25 August, 2018, 35-year-old Bhuwan Danwar from Bansajar village was killed by an elephant while walking home. In August, Deputy Ranger Sitaram Tiwari was also killed while monitoring elephant movement in the state's Koriya district. More recently, in September, a young man was trampled and killed by a herd of elephants while driving on his motorbike on the road to Hata village in the Raigarh district and another was killed while attempting to take a "selfie" with wild elephants in Jashpur district. A selection of images and news articles relevant to these and other cases have been attached to this email. Please note that this is by no means a comprehensive list of deaths from HEC in Chhattisgarh this year.
Sir, there is no doubt that this situation calls for urgent intervention. The tragic loss of human lives, elephant lives and wild habitats in Chhattisgarh needs to be addressed on priority by your esteemed Ministry and officers of Project Elephant. The Chhattisgarh State Forest Department is doing its best to cope with the conflict, and is providing speedy compensation to the families of human victims. However, compensation is not a solution to the problem. Scientific initiatives to mitigate conflict, large scale public awareness programmes, voluntary relocation of vulnerable hamlets, media sensitisation workshops and habitat protection and restoration are the need of the hour. It is no secret that the forests of the state have been ravaged by coal mining conglomerates, and in fact it was reported that the proposed Elephant Reserve of Lemru was never notified in order to keep it open for coal exploration.
I urge your ministry to take cognisance of this crisis in Chhattisgarh and take immediate steps toward the safety of humans and the protection of wildlife and wild habitats in the state. There are a number of well-qualified organisations and experts that can extend support to the government on these matters if they are approached. Too many people and elephants have died gruesome deaths, and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change can no longer afford to ignore this matter.
The Sanctuary Nature Foundation extends its full cooperation to your office in this regard. I look forward to a response from your office at the earliest.