Even as the BJP-led government in Assam has launched a drive to evict encroachers, over 141 sq km of land in the state’s national parks and wildlife sanctuaries continue to be under the grip of encroachers. Man-animal conflict meanwhile has left 99 elephants dead in five years. Disclosing these and other forest-related figures, Assam forest and environment minister Pramila Rani Brahma told the state assembly in Guwahati on Thursday during question hour that of the 141.76 sq km of sanctuary land under encroachment, as much as 42 sq km were in four of the five national parks.
Among five the national parks, Manas had 31 sq km under encroachment, Nameri five sq km, Dibru-Saikhowa 3.17 sq km and Orang 2.35 sq km, minister Brahma said. There was however no encroachment in Kaziranga after the authorities carried out an eviction drive in September last year.
The minister also disclosed that among the 18 wildlife sanctuaries in Assam, Sonai-Rupai topped the chart of encroachment, with 85 sq km of it in the grip of illegal settlers. About 2.28 sq km of Amchang wildlife sanctuary in Guwahati, 5.08 sq km of Burachapori, three sq km of Laokhowa, four sq km of Bornadi, and 0.34 sq km of Bherjan-Borjaon-Padumoni wildlife sanctuary were under encroachment, she said.
Giving figures about man-animal conflict in the state, the forest minister said as many as 99 wild elephants have died due to incidents like electrocution, poaching, poisoning and train accidents between 2012 and 2016. Of these, electrocution accounted for the highest elephant deaths (48), followed by train accidents (27), poaching (13) and poisoning (11).
As many as 36 leopards too were killed in Assam in the last five years, of which 27 deaths were caused as a result of “retaliatory killings” after the animals had entered human habitations and caused death and injury to human beings and domestic animals. Poaching and poisoning accounted for six and three leopard deaths respectively, Brahma said.
Assam also recorded 426 human deaths between 2012 and 2016 caused only by wild elephants. The highest number of human deaths (118) by wild elephants was recorded in 2015, the minister said. In 2016, elephants killed 92 people, while 84, 81 and 51 were killed in 2012, 2013 and 2014 respectively. Leopards on the other hand killed one person in 2016. Replying to yet another question, minister Brahma said Assam lost 101 one-horned rhinos during 2016 due to “natural” reasons. Among these “natural” deaths, Kaziranga national park alone accounted for 93, she said.