Lives and livelihood lost as locals and the elephant frequently cross each other’s path.
KRISHNA SINJALI in Jhapa
The movement of Asian Wild elephants (Eliphus Maximus) through the six districts of eastern Nepal has increased to an alarming level in the recent years. The migratory elephants coming from Indian side across the Mechi river has put the local population in jeopardy.
Jhapa’s Bahundangi, Sanischere, Arjundhara, Khudunabari and Mechinagar are the worst affected. According to Nature Conservation Society, Bhahundagi, more than 100 elephants raid crops mainly in Ward 2,8 ,1 and 9 of Bahundangi VDC. The single tusker and small herds of 2 to 5 frequently damage the crops and the houses while the big herds raid the crops mainly during the harvest time.
In the last fifteen years, hundred people have lost their lives and more than 500 houses have been destroyed by the elephants. Similarly, thirty wild elephants have been also killed in 6 districts by the locals.
The fragmentation of forest corridors is the main cause behind elephants and the humans crossing each other’s path frequently. The unplanned settlement of migrated population in the eastern Terai after the 1950s and increased population thereof, has led to encroachment of their wild habitat.
The land in the area is very fertile and majority of people in the region are farmers. But the loss of crop and property has impacted the growth in this region. Since the attacks by the elephants began in the mid 1990’s, hundreds have been disabled which has directly affected the living of the families. The locals of Bahundangi say nobody wants to visit their area due to elephant scare and even the girls refuse to marry boys from the village. The value of land and property in the area has been consistently decreasing in the last one decade.
Earlier, the government provided little support to the victim of attack by wild animals and the process of claiming support was often more expensive than the support itself. But recently the government announced a compensation of NRs.150,000 per human casualty by wild animals.
However, when it comes to mitigation, the only tangible step taken by the government is the construction of 17 watch towers around the area sensitive to elephant attack. Beside this, the local population lives at the mercy of fire-crackers, sticks and limited fuel from the vehicles used to burn lanterns, to chase the elephants.
Various attempts were made in the past to mitigate the problem but none were sustained. The Elephant Disaster Mitigation Service Center had started bee keeping , bio -fencing and chilly deterrence to prevent the elephants from entering the villages. But the program collapsed due to internal problem. Another local organization initiated solar electric fencing program along the bank of Mechi river with the support of local government office. But the program was never implemented.
Two years ago, the Nature Conservation Society (NCS) was formed and the organization has since been using various methods to resolve the problem. The organization has held awareness raising campaign among the community in the affected area. Four Trans boundary meeting was held in India and Nepal to share ideas and experiences on how to mitigate the problem. The organization even sent a delegation to Indian embassy asking Indian government’s help in dealing with the problem caused by migratory elephants. Currently NCS has formed 15 volunteer groups of local farmers who patrol the river side in the evenings and inform the others in case of elephant attack. The groups have been provide searching light, firecrackers, and cell phones. NCS has also purchased sirens and vehicles fixed with high voltage flood lights to drive the elephants away.Go back to previous page