By Prasanjeet Sarkar
ROURKELA: There seems to be no end to man-elephant conflict in Sundargarh district. With the death of Nuasi Minz (55) on Tuesday last, the district accounted for 16 human casualties in the past 11 months.
Sundargarh DFO Arjun Behera said while a group of villagers including Minz was driving away a herd of 29 elephants at Sikajor of Lefripara block, an elephant attacked and killed Minz.
At present, over 50 elephants in three herds are roaming in Sundargarh and Ujjalpur forest ranges. Having strayed from Badarma sanctuary via Jharsuguda and forest of Chhattisgarh, they are frequently entering human habitations in the area. Sundargarh division has registered four human deaths in elephant attack this year.
Bonai forest division registered three human deaths this year. As many as 100 elephants have stayed put in Koida, Jarda, Ramra and Barsuan forest ranges. Bonai DFO Santosh Banchchhor said 20 km of vulnerable areas have been secured from elephants with solar fencing and 200 personnel engaged for tracking the elephants and driving them away.
Rourkela forest division is worst affected with elephants sneaking in from neighbouring Jharkhand. It has recorded nine human deaths this year, while the division paid `85 lakh as compensation for properties and crop damaged by elephants in 2013-14. Sundargarh and Bonai divisions paid `13 lakh towards compensation during the period.
The problem is not limited to rural pockets of the district. Elephant herds have entered Rourkela City twice in the last 15 months. On Wednesday, three elephants were spotted near Tumkela, on the outskirts of Rourkela.
Forest officials said 85 to 90 elephants in seven herds have intruded into Rajgangpur, Kuanrmunda and Bisra ranges.
Rourkela DFO Sanjeet Kumar said after eight km of solar fencing, plans are on the anvil to cover 10 km more to secure the city. He said trenches would be dug up in Kamarapahar, Brahmani and Mudra reserve forests and two large water bodies on two hectares (ha) each would be developed in South Chirubera and Rudukupedi reserve forest areas to prevent elephant intrusion.
Meanwhile, Sundargarh Collector Bhupendra Singh Poonia has submitted a Comprehensive Elephant Management Plan for the district to the State Government.