Arunachal: Man-Elephant conflict in Deomali is a growing concern ( By Denhang Bosai ) –
The sharp rise in elephant population in Deomali area over the years is a matter of grave concern. Every year, especially during the dry winter months, the giant pachyderm creates havoc in different colonies of Deomali Township, often destroying dwelling houses and properties. The elephants are getting more and more emboldened to enter the residential areas of Deomali without any fear thereby causing panic and fear psychosis among the hapless residents.
There have been a few incidents in and around Deomali when some people were killed by wild elephants. Sometimes herds of elephants invade and intrude into the human habitats while sometime, a lone tusker roam around at night freely, oblivious of the residents. They appear mostly at night. However, very often they come to the colonies in the evening itself. In the past, some elephants stole and ate away rice from the FCI godown at Deomali.
Come winter, the helpless residents, especially those who reside in thatched houses, prepare themselves to face the wild elephants. They arm themselves with crackers, torch, sticks, bamboos and other materials to beat and scare away the elephants. But to their dismay and utter chagrin, the giants are no longer scared of these and continue to move around freely. During winter the colonies resonate and reverberate with shouts of residents through out the night who stay awake to scare away the beligerent elephants.
Some residents hardly sleep enough at night as they keep awake to keep a nightly vigil to shoo away the elephants. But most of the time without any respite because the giant is no longer afraid of humans. Strangely, these wild elephants donot visit the human habitats during the summer. Only in winter, beginning from November to February, they appear in the Township, mostly in the outskirts. This is probably because of scarcity of food in the jungles. The poor residents have a harrowing times in winter because of the havoc created by the elephants. The parents are concerned about their little children and elderly people.
As a matter of fact, the entire Deomali area is an elephant corridor. So, it is not surprising that they are found in such huge numbers. The problems and predicaments of the unsuspecting residents have only increased of late due to wanton destruction of forests around Deomali. Rampant felling of standing trees and sawing of timber are going on unabated.
There are lots of timber sawing activities in some forest areas, not very far from the Deomali Township. Some are using sawing machines, elephants and JCBs to cut down trees and pull them. This is going on clandestinely. This is happening when timber operation has been banned in the state by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The Forest department and administration need to pull up their socks and check this illegal timber operation. They cannot be mute spectators when such illegal activities go on right under their nose.
The elephants come out of the forest because their main habitats have been mercilessly destroyed by humans who are invariably driven by thrir insatiable greed. This man-elephant conflict is because of follies and fallacies of humanbeings. Its because of their overt interference in depleting the forest cover, which is the home to the elephants. The forest cover is dwindling day by day due to which the elephants have no place to stay and plants to feed.
The administration and Forest department need to think out of the box and evolve some mechanisms to arrest the elephant menace before things go out of controll. Relocation of some elephants to dense forests in some other districts of the state is a doable option for which the state government has to rope in the expertise of wildlife experts and their help. I was posted at Seppa in East Kameng district during the 80s and 90s. There people have never seen an elephant because there are no elephants there. Possibilities of relocating some elephants there can also be explored.
Some elephants from Deomali can also be relocated to other states and even sent to nearby neighbouring countries to check the burgroning elephant population and balance it population growth. In some places, elephants are also being killed clandestinely because they destroy crops and pose danger to life of the people. Some elephants have also perished due to electrocution. Last night (13/01/2023, a lone tusker came very close to my Deomali farmhouse.
It was a huge one. It came through a nullah which is dry now and ate a few banana plants and left. It destroyed a thatched house near my garden wherein a few girl students stay. Fortunately, the girls were away at that time, staying with their relative in another colony. Had they been inside the house, it would have been life-threatening and a tragedy as the thatched house was raged down to the ground whch lies in real bad shape.
The man-elephant conflict in Deomali is a reality today. We cannot afford to take the elephant menace lightly anymore or run away from the huge problem. Something needs to be done urgently to protect the life and property of the residents. The district administration, concerned departments and concerned netizens should come out with concrete and viable solutions to reduce the man-elephant conflict that has gone on for too long without it being addressed effectively. Together, this monster of a problem be solved. Together, this literally gigantic menace can be addressed if all the stakeholders sit together work together.
(The writer is Deputy Director, DIPR (Rtd.)