By Nirmala Kannangara
Unplanned developments within forest areas and unsuccessful elephant drives have become one of the main causes for human elephant conflicts in the country.
As a result of ‘acquiring’ forest lands which are elephant habitat areas, elephants have been deprived of food and water. Hence elephants have no other option but to invade the surrounding villages which has led to human-elephant conflict.
After four wild elephants including a baby elephant were electrocuted at Handilla in the Hambantota district a few weeks ago, it has come to the limelight as to how illegal encroachers use the main power connection to kill elephants.
Environmentalists are up in arms against the Department of Forest Conservation (DFC) and Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) for their alleged failure to discharge the duties to take action against those who violate DFC and DWC regulations.
“In the case of the four elephant deaths few weeks ago, why couldn’t the DFC take action against the person who built the house blocking the elephant corridor in Handilla. When the DWC is driving away the elephants from their natural habitats to certain parks, DFC is allowing people to build houses in forest lands blocking elephant corridors so where can the elephants go? When this happens, where else can the jumbos go other than entering border villages looking for food? In this particular incident in Handilla, these elephants were roaming in their ‘homelands’ but was killed by an illegal encroacher. How cruel this is. These elephants – two mothers and a young tusker around 5-6 years and a baby elephant about two years were killed brutally by this illegal encroacher. What action would these two institutions take against the accused for trespassing elephant homelands?” alleged Director Environment Conservation Trust, Sajeewa Chamikara.
According to Handilla villagers, another male elephant has been electrocuted closer to the airport a few days ago. The angry villagers, on condition of anonymity, too accused the Department of DFC for allowing people to destroy forest lands but added that fines are imposed against the villagers if they clear a small piece of land for a chena cultivation.
“A fine of Rs.15,000 is imposed if we clear a small area in the forest to make a chena for our living. However they are silent when outsiders clear the forest to make holiday homes,” the sources claimed.
According to the sources, although the Forest Department razed the house to the ground and set it on fire claiming it is an unauthorized building at the beginning, their stance was changed later.
The sources further accused Ceylon Electricity Board for giving power connection no sooner the house was built although the villagers were not given the power supply. More....