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As Asiatic elephants are here to stay, Madhya Pradesh learns to co-exist with them

Learning from Karnataka, MP is in final stages of finalising a mobile app that will ensure compensation filed for damages to crops, cattle and human life is disposed of in less than a month.

Elephant migration to MP is part of their ongoing movement in east-central region.(Image source: Sudhir Mishra /Asst Director Bandhavgarh)

To peacefully coexist with its new guests (wild Asiatic elephants), Madhya Pradesh is gearing up to launch a bunch of measures ranging from a mobile app for speedy disposal of damages to launching an elephant manual putting in place the roles and duties of various departments and ensuring minimum man-elephant conflict.

These measures were decided after a two-day workshop was held in August with wildlife officials and experts from Karnataka, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. It was also decided to set up electrical fencing, preferably tentacle solar-powered fencing, to reduce crop raids, promote bee farming in villagers and dig up elephant-proof trenches to restrict wild tuskers from attacking houses in search of grains and mahua.

Learning from Karnataka, MP is in final stages of finalising a mobile app that will ensure compensation filed for damages to crops, cattle and human life is disposed of in less than a month. A senior official from forest department said in case of man-elephant conflict resulting in any kind of damage, the forest beat guard will enter details for compensation and within a week, if it is not addressed, the file will keep moving to top post official of the division, which is the Divisional Forest Official (DFO).

“At present, there is no way to ascertain what kind of compensation or how many compensation claims have been filed and at what level are they stuck unless that information is specifically called from a specific division. But this app will enable a user to review it any time,” said a forest official, requesting anonymity.

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A similar app being used in Karnataka is called e-Parihara. The MP government has called for suggestions from experts to name their app. Forest officials pointed out that delay in compensation often results in villagers getting agitated, which also leads to an attempt to harm the animal or the forest. Several forest fires reported in MP were attributed to villagers after their properties were damaged by animals and no compensation thereafter.

In its report, an elephant task force constituted in 2021 had pointed out that migration of wild elephants into MP is part of ongoing dispersal and large-scale movement of elephants in the east-central region in India, which visibly began in 1980s with elephants from Jharkhand moving into West Bengal and Sarguja district of erstwhile MP. Since then, wild tuskers have continued to move from Jharkhand and Odisha into Chhattisgarh and onwards into MP. In MP, 17 people died between 2018 and 2022 and the highest of six deaths took place in 2021, followed by five in 2022.

After Chhattisgarh was carved out of MP in 2000, wild elephants began coming to MP’s Sidhi, Singrauli and Shahdol districts, wherein they would stay for 2-3 months and then return to Chhattisgarh. But this changed in 2017 when a herd of seven elephants did not leave MP and continued to stay in Sanjay Dubri Tiger Reserve of Sidhi. In 2018, another herd of 40 elephants entered MP and began residing in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in Umaria. This herd has now increased to nearly 50 elephants, pointed out a forest official.

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In the same year, two human casualties were reported in Sidhi and Singrauli, along with damage to crops and property, making it the first such incident of man-elephant conflict.

The elephant manual formulated by MP forest department codifying the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) is pending for administrative approval, while the app is expected to be launched at the end of this year.

Meanwhile, forest officials have launched awareness drives to make villagers aware of how to react when attacked by an elephant and ensure minimum damage during a man-elephant conflict. These drives are being held in eight districts of Shahdol, Umaria, Sidhi, Singrauli, Annupur, Balaghat, Dindori and Mandal.

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As per the population estimates of elephants in India, there were seven elephants in MP in 2007, but this figure, according to Chief Wildlife Warden JS Chauhan has increased to 60 at present. Besides, there are several elephant herds that come to MP and stay put for a few months taking that figure to over 100.

First published on: 23-11-2022 at 04:10 IST
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