HEC Death Toll Continues To Rise In Chhattisgarh
Village communities in Chhattisgarh’s Dharamjaigarh block continue to struggle with brutal human-elephant conflict.
In May 2019, Sanctuary’s Project Leader Sajal Madhu reported three separate encounters resulting in human deaths from the region. The deceased were killed when they chanced upon wild elephants while answering the call of nature, collecting tendu leaves or walking in forested areas. Matters remained grave through June, with another five deaths reported from the block. Of these, the death of one Mangalibai Manjhawar is particularly chilling as she was killed inside her home when an elephant entered it to eat stored rice. It is also possible that more deaths from the conflict have gone unreported to Sanctuary.
According to Madhu, “The Chhattisgarh Forest Department has been tracking the elephant herds and is taking efforts to control the movement of an aggressive male elephant named Ganesha. A solar fence covering 440 ha of forest area has been erected to restrict Ganesha's movement, but this intelligent tusker has been entering village farms by breaking the fence using tree logs every night. During the day time he remains within the fence.“ According to sources in the forest department, the elephant is also being provided with food such as jackfruit in an effort to stop him from entering villages and farms.
A Greenpeace report states that human-elephant conflict in Chhattisgarh started in the late 80’s with the migration of wild herds from the neighbouring states of Odisha and Jharkhand, prompted by the devastation of forests due to mining. Shamefully, in the decades since the problem first arose, the Indian government has continued to side with mining interests at the cost of local communities and biodiversity.