Raipur: The northern Forest of Chhattishgarh has become dangerous for wild animals as well as humans owing to the State Government's negligence.
Nearly a dozen people and more than 100 animals including 15 elephants have been killed in Chhattisgarh's Surajpur, Surguja, Balrampur, Jashpur, and Korba district's forest in the last two years due to electrocution. This is being attributed to the State Electricity Department as it laid down high tension wire in the forest. Moreover, the number of small animals like chitals, kotari, and wild pigs killed by poachers is unaccounted for.
The State Forest Department, however, is clueless about the incident, and even after two years, the Department has claimed that they will send a notice to the Electricity Department to address the issue.
Forest officials claimed that the villagers or the poachers hook down the current using the live wires from the mainline and lay it down throughout the known paths of the animals. Several incidents of similar nature have been reported in these forests. Unfortunately, humans too have fallen prey to it and lost their lives.
It's worth mentioning, in 2018, a social worker Nitin Singhvi filed a petition in Bilaspur High Court claiming that from March 2005 to 2017 as many as 34 elephants have died owing to the unplanned spreading of the power lines through the Forests of Sarguja. Hearing the case, the High Court ordered the Electricity Distribution Board to answer, but in vain.
On August 16, an elephant died owing to the electrocution in Pratappur Range of Surajpur district. "Nearly 15 elephants have died of electrocution in the last two years in Northern range forest of Chhattisgarh," said Korba-based environmentalist Laxmi Chouhan.
In addition to that, Kannilal, a resident of Mainpat of Ambikapur district strangled in the trap laid down for the wild animals and lost his life on July 30, this year. Within a week, Basanti Bai, of the same locality also fell in the trap and died of electrocution on when she was on her way to in-laws. Her husband escaped with a close shave.
In another incident, a migrant worker got electrocuted near Madwarani village in Korba district. He was returning from Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh with his family on June 21, 2020, when the incident occurred.
According to local media reports, between January 2019 to July 2020 more than ten people have lost their lives in various parts of the forest spread across northern Chhattishgarh.
Villagers are in constant fear as the hunters change the place of traps every other day. The visibility of these traps is very low as they are designed to fit in the natural set-up of the forest to not sway the animals away.
Ever since the hunting has been banned, many alternates have been designed by the hunters to trap and kill wild animals.
Hunters are acquainted with the area and set up the traps along the frequent tracks of wild animals, said SS Kanwar, Conservator of Forest, Wildlife Sarguja Division. "They (hunters) hook down electricity from high tension wires running above and link it to the trap and take away the animals. The Electricity Department has laid the power lines without permission and the ruckus has followed ever since," he added.
In the areas of Mainpat and surrounding tourist destinations like Kadraj and Sapnadar, these hunters get a high price for providing the exotic chittal's, kotari's, and other meats for the meal. The Forest Dept has no data when it comes to the small animals and hence no concrete steps have been taken to put a stop to these killings.
When contacted, the Chief Conservator of Forest, Sarguja, AB Minz claimed, "The Forest Department has sent a letter to the Electricity Dept conveying the same", while the District Forest Officer, Surajpur assured, "We are conducting a survey in the area and soon after we will send the detailed letter to the Board based on our findings."
When asked about the curb the poachers' trap, he replied, "We haven't found any concentrated poacher's group. They might be the villagers. But, to control it, we have increased the patrolling and are using various means to spread awareness among the people."
On the other hand, the Electricity Board and the officials denied any knowledge of receiving any letter.
Commenting over the issue, Subrat Sahu, Secretary in-charge, Electricity Department, Chhattisgarh said, "We haven't received any letter from the Forest Department in this regard. But, since it's a serious issue, it requires a holistic approach to resolve it."
Requesting anonymity, a senior official of the Electricity Department said, "Shifting the route of power lines throughout the forest requires nearly Rs 2000 crore which is not a viable option for the Department now."
Over the years many cases have come to the limelight yet forest and electricity board authorities have failed to implement tactics that would put an end to this mad killing of wildlife as well as that of humans.
Coming down heavily on the Government and officials concerned, Environmentalist Laxmi Chouhan claimed that neither the Forest Department nor the Electricity Department cares about the animals.
"Many human and animal lives have been lost in the past few years, but the officials of both Departments have been playing with the letters. This is disgraceful. The Government should immediately intervene to address the issue and save the innocent lives.
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