Elephant tramples villager to death in Raigarh, India: 4th casualty in a week


Elephant on a charge.

A man was trampled to death by a herd of elephants in Chaal forest of Dharamjaigarh region in Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh on Saturday, fourth casualty in a week. This is the 12th death recorded from Korba, Surguja, Jashpur and Bilaspur regions of the state this since January.

On an average, 25 people fall prey to tuskers in the state annually.

Foresters said 61-year-old villager from Sharasmal village went to forests to collect forest produce when a herd of elephants attacked and trampled him to death. His maimed body was recovered by officials.

Despite large number of deaths caused by elephants, state government has not been able to come up with an effective strategy to deal with the problem and experts attribute laxity on government's part due to presence of rich mineral resources in forests resulting in mining activities. Large part of forest divisions with elephant presence (accounting to more than 30% of human deaths and crop damage) has been identified as sites for mining.

Greenpeace India, campaigner Nandikesh Shivalingam, who prepared a detailed report on condition of human-elephant conflict in northern Chhattisgarh, told , "Paying compensation is a temporary relief and not long-term solution. Government has to either choose land for mining or reserve some space for elephant corridor."

State has ignored recommendations by Wildlife Trust of India and Project Elephant to secure regions in Korba and Dharamjaigarh forest divisions for elephant conservation, he alleged.

Mining and deforestation had pushed hundreds of elephants from Jharkhand and Odisha to Chhattisgarh where they have started venturing into human habitats. "It is the duty of the state to balance wildlife, displacement of tribal population and habitat making sure availability of mineral resources," he said.

While Dharamjaigarh has recorded 69 human deaths and 32 elephant deaths in last few years, according to a report, 215 human deaths were reported between 2005 and 2014. According to Greenpeace, 65% of human deaths due to elephants nationwide were caused by 10% of India's elephant population in Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand.

Social activist at Dharamjaigarh, Sajal Kumar accused state government of ignoring the issue. "Spending lakhs of rupees on solar fencing to prevent elephants venturing in human habitat is simply a waste of money. Tuskers break them effortlessly."

Over the last four years state has paid about Rs 7 crore as compensation towards injured, loss of life, property and crop damage in elephant attacks. "Sometimes victims have to wait for months and a year to get compensation," he said.

Talking to Tapesh Jha, chief conservator of forests, wildlife, Bilaspur explained, "Root cause of conflict is availability of common resources to both animal and human at same place. One is intelligent and the other is dominating. While forest department has been working on tracking elephants, solar fencing, forewarning villagers, constituting hulla party as part of crisis management, there are several factors that needs to be worked upon."

Another forest official said on condition of anonymity, "Easy availability of crops collected at place makes it easy for tusker to feed in stead of searching for it," the official said.