Linear infrastructure developments were conflicting with the objectives of wildlife conservation in many national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India, an expert said here on Thursday.
“As many as 72 of the documented 88 elephant corridors have national highways or other major roads passing through them and seven have railway lines,” V B Mathur, Director of Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India, said.
“More than 200 elephants had been killed in the country since 1987 by trains passing through forests,” he said while speaking at a two-day workshop on elephant conservation in south Indian states jointly organised by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest and Kerala Forest Department.
“Of the 50 Protected Areas (PAs), declared as Tiger Reserves in the country, major roads pass through 26 of them,” he said.
"In many of India's National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and Tiger Reserves, linear infrastructure developments in the form of roads, railway lines, power lines and canals are conflicting with the objectives of wildlife conservation," Mathur said.
“As many as 30-50 cases of poaching of tuskers for ivory, 40-70 cases of electrocution and 20-30 cases of poisoning of elephants are reported across the country every year,” he said.
Detailing the reasons leading to human-elephant conflicts, he said loss, degradation and fragmentation of jumbo habitat, blockage of corridors, illegal harvesting, enclaves within forests, labour colonies on corridors within tea/coffee estates, trespass, movement of pilgrims and so on would contribute to the menace.
Stressing the need to initiate research on 'reproductive control' of elephant population, the official said emphasis of elephant conservation programmes in future should be to improve the quality of life of the animal rather than on increasing their numbers.
"Smart and green infrastructure promotes both smart growth and smart conservation," he added.
M S Negi, additional Director General of Forests, Ministry of Environment and Forests, said the increasing population of animals in forests might be one of the reasons for the frequent human-animal conflicts.
Demarcating elephant corridors by the state governments is one of the effective ways to contain human-animal conflicts in forest-fringe areas. So that, the developmental activities in these corridors could be redesigned in such a manner that these conflicts can be minimised or reduced, he said.
Quoting figures, he said at least 100 elephants and 400 human beings are dying every year in the country due to the human-animal conflict.
Inaugurating the workshop, Kerala Forest Minister K Raju said the state, which has four identified jumbo corridors and reserves, is doing the elephant population estimation in regular intervals.
Stating that the elephants, be wild or captive, were facing multi-dimensional issues across the country, he said human-animal conflicts was one of the most serious concerns among them to be addressed especially in southern states.
"Wildlife-human interface is a serious obstacle in wildlife conservation," he said.
Increasing population, development initiatives and climate change were leading to the direct competition between humans and wildlife for shrinking resources.
To address the human-elephant interface, Kerala had been following traditional measures like trenches, solar-powered fencing, jumbo-proof walls, bio-fencing and so on, the minister said.
The state also started using 'early warning SMS alert' system with active involvement of local people to tackle the issue, he said.
Detailing various steps taken for the protection and rehabilitation of captive elephants, he said, the state government has initiated steps to set up a world class captive elephant management centre near here, the work of which is already in progress.
Forest officials from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka besides Kerala are taking part in the workshop, which would conclude on Friday.