Sleepless in Sakleshpur: A slow-moving govt creates an elephantine problem

Sleepless in Sakleshpur: A slow-moving govt creates an elephantine problem

Submitted by alvin on Tue, 2016-03-15 11:40 Bengaluru: The long-pending demand for an elephant corridor in Western Ghats might end up remaining a dream due to the indifference of the state government. As many as 416 families residing in 2954 acres in Western Ghats have been demanding the corridor so that they could live a safe and peaceful life. But with the advent of power projects and other human activities, it seems an impossible task to carve out an elephant corridor. The Western Ghats region in Karnataka has about 75 elephants, and last year the forest department had captured 25 elephants and shifted them to camps and neighbouring states. Now, 48 elephants are roaming in Alur and Sakleshpur region while 25 of them addicted to paddy, coffee, banana and other farm produce. The state government is now being pressurised to purchase land from farmers of seven villages adjacent to Bisle Ghats on Western Ghats in Sakleshpur Taluk. The farmers are demanding a minimum of Rs 20 lakh as compensation for an acre of land. The lack of a corridor has led to rise in human-elephant conflict. Sakleshpur alone has reported 10 deadly attacks by wild elephants in the last five years. After much pressure, the government has asked for a report from the district administration. Wild elephants started migrating into human habitats in Alur and Sakleshpur taluks for the past 7-8 years. After the submergence of 30,000 acres due to the building of Hemavathi and Harangi reservoirs, the elephant menace increased in Alur taluk. One of the reasons behind the elephant migration was the submergence of bamboo growing area in the dam's backwaters. Western Ghats has also been disturbed by mini hydraulic projects and the Gundya power project. With the elephants treating farmers' crops as a food source, farmers started requesting government for an elephant corridor or scientific solution for the elephant menace. The issue also reached the Supreme Court and Elephant Task force Committee (ETC) formed to report problems and provide solutions. Speaking about the elephant menace, HA Kishor Kumar, President, Malenadu Horata Samiti, said, “Elephant menace has increased because of power projects. Earlier, there were elephants but there was no such problem. But for the past few years, 5 mini hydraulic projects and Gundya power project has destroyed lot of forest area. Sound pollution and submergence of bamboo growing area is also responsible for the elephant problem. Banning projects inside reserve forest and announcing it as reserve forest can provide a solution for the problem.” Even the ETC speaks of a similar solution in Sakleshpur region, said Kishor Kumar, adding that creation of an elephant corridor while promoting hydraulic projects cannot go hand in hand. The state government has started showing signs of interest in the problem, and recently asked for a detailed report. A committee lead by deputy commissioner, Hassan had chaired meeting with residents of Mankanahalli, Arali, Balehalla, Betkumeri, Ettanahalli, Bagemane, Beranamane and Jedihalla. But HL Vijay Kumar Sharma, environmentalist from Hassan, was unconvinced. “For the last few months, frequent meetings have been taking place but how far is this effective? Is the government keen on compensating these farmers and securing their life? How many more years does the government require?” asked Vijay Kumar. Further he said, “The government should ban all hydro projects in Western Ghats and remove KPTCL lines, vacate all small projects and ban entry inside the deemed forest,” he said. Yettinahole a threat to elephant corridor: Since the Yettinahole project passes close to the corridor area, the project is being seen as a threat. During the highway work at Shiradi Ghats, work was disturbed by elephant herds. Since the area is close to Yettinahole, the laying of pipeline is likely to block the movement of elephants. Assistant Conservator of Forests, Sakleshpur, Ramesh Babu, had this to say about the corridor. “We have met with all eight villages. Almost 95 �f farmers agreed to migrate. Now we are preparing a detailed report. The compensation amount paid for KPTCL lines was between Rs 18-20 lakh. But farmers are demanding a minimum of Rs 20 lakh while as per government rules we can pay them Rs 10-15 Lakh. Even land aquisition policy is an issue. The Yettinahole project will eventually become a threat to the elephants,” said Ramesh Babu