Moushumi Basu | New Delhi

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), funding various infrastructure projects as flyovers, irrigation and others projects across the country, has proposed supporting measures to check man-animal conflicts as a part of its bio-diversity project.

To begin with, it will come to the rescue of elephants in North Bengal by putting up electronic fence and a mobile squad to keep elephants and gaurs off train tracks and villages. The Sunderbans will also be another focus area of the Rs 360-crore (1 crore = 10 000 000 Rupees) project, in which controlling man-animal conflict is a major component. Similar efforts are also being taken up in Tamil Nadu, at a cost of Rs 5.59 crore.

“There is habitat loss and fragmentation of wildlife due to the upcoming infrastructure projects, leading to rising man-animal conflicts and loss of lives from both sides,” said Shinya Ejima, JICA chief representative in India. She pointed out that, based on discussions and suggestions with wildlife experts, the project is aimed at reviving the forest corridors and habitats, important for the passage of wildlife, and reducing the incidents of animals straying on to human landscapes.

Apart from the villages of North Bengal, the project will also constitute squads and assist the elephant trackers of the Forest Department in the conflict-prone forests of Rupnarayan, Kharagpur, Bankura and Purulia. The project also envisages the installing of nylon net fencing to keep big cats from entering the villages located at the forest fringe. Out of a total of 85 kms of interface required to be fenced, more than 50 kms have been covered by the Forest Department.

Along with the Sunderban Tiger Reserve, the project also proposes to cover Buxa Tiger Reserve and Mayurjharna Elephant Reserve, besides other wildlife sanctuaries such as Senchal Wildlife Sactuary and Singalila National Park.

Similar efforts are being made in Tamil Nadu. While solar fences will be put up to keep away the wild herds of elephants from entering the villages, elephant trenches will be dug for the passage of elephants particularly in the vicinity of railway tracks. Some of the worst problem areas are the districts of Erode, Dharmapuri, Dindigul and Tirunelveli.
The influx of elephants mainly occurs during the post-monsoon and dry season periods. Elephant populations from Bandipur Tiger Reserve, Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Nilgiri North and South Forest Division intensify for a period of 3-4 months at a density of 1.5 elephants per sq km.

Due to the impact of developmental activities, the once large forest area has shrunk, leading to increases in man-elephant conflict.

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