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Elephant death rate rises in Orissa

Orissa's failure in restoring elephant crossing paths over major irrigation projects is leading to higher elephant casualties in the state.

Orissa’s failure in restoring elephant crossing paths over major irrigation projects is leading to higher elephant casualties,a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has stated.

The rate of elephant deaths which was 32 per year during 1990-2003,increased to 56 per year during 2003-2008 in the state,the CAG report said.

Though elephant corridors (crossing paths) were disrupted due to Rengali irrigation project,no efforts were made to restore them,the report said.

Since the elephant is a long range animal and travels vast distances in search of food and water,the forested links between reserves and sanctuaries called corridors had come under tremendous pressure.

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Elephant habitats in Keonjhar and Sundargarh districts and several inter and intra-State migration corridors used by elephants have been destroyed by mining activities. Orissa has 74 per cent of total elephants in eastern India and 10 per cent of the country’s tusker population.

The CAG report said that the Rengali Irrigation project spread over Dhenkanal,Angul,Cuttack and Jajpur districts has posed a serious threat to the elephants as the State government’s lackadaisical attitude in restoring elephant corridors. “Despite Government of India’s request in June 2002,the state government did not prepare any prospective plan and the scheme was being implemented through ad hoc annual plan affecting systematic management of elephant reserve,” the CAG report said.

Though the Ministry of Environment and Forests had accorded environmental clearance to the project,it had stipulated preparation of a wildlife management plan to protect the wildlife within the protected area. The scheme was to be funded by the water resources department and executed by the forest department.

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But buraucratic slothness in the State government ensured that the management plan could not be approved. Similarly,the Kapilas Wildlife Sanctuary near the project area could not be declared as a sanctuary ensured the elephants did not have safe haven. “The intended purpose of restoring the elephant habitat and corridors stood frustrated and funds amounting to Rs 4.31 crore remained unutilised,” the report said.

Although elephant population has risen in Orissa from 1,841 in 2002 to 1,862 in 2007,as many as 280 pachyderms died due to various reasons during the period.

In 2007,42 kg of ivory,weighing about 42 kg was seized in Rayagada district. The same year,forest officials in Mayurbanj district have seized ivory worth Rs. 150,000 from a smuggler. The tusk weighing 21.9 kg and cut into five pieces,was seized from the accused.

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The State also failed to form a special strike force to check poaching and destruction of habitats.The centrally-sponsored scheme like Project Elephant aimed at conservation and protection of valuable population of wildlife in their natural habitat and reducing the man-elephant conflict also did not bear any fruit. The State Board for Wildlife constituted in September 2003 to meet at least twice a year for advising the state government on formulation of policy for protection and conservation of wildlife,met only once.

First published on: 17-02-2009 at 02:51:02 pm
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