Relation of Solar Powered Fences To Elephant Migration
In Assam, people and elephants share their lands and have lived consonant for ages. The spiritual belief and tolerance of individuals have played a serious role in enabling this coexistence. Assam has always been a stronghold of Asian elephant populations. But with shrinking habitats, changing land-use patterns, urbanization, and a burgeoning human population, human-elephant confrontations have increased manifold, often resulting in undesirable interactions.
The negative interactions are within the sort of crop and property damages, loss of human lives, retaliatory killings, and poaching to call a couple of. Most of the affected people are often poverty-stricken farmers and villagers. With their lives and crops at stake, they get infuriated and their reverence towards elephants gradually ceases. This attitude towards elephants undermines conservation efforts to safeguard the species.
Cause of worry
Quoting the Assam forest minister, about 750 people, and 250 elephants died unnatural deaths within the state between 2010 and 2018 as a result of human-elephant conflict (HEC). In 2019, approximately 75 human and 60 elephant deaths were reported from the state.
Of these unnatural elephant deaths occurring over the period, the foremost prevalent cause is electrocution. Of late, human-induced elephant deaths using illegal electric fencing powered through mains or high-tension sagging wires are on rising within the state.
In areas with a history of crop-raiding and human deaths, villagers have installed illegal electric fences surrounding their crop fields or habitations. They draw electricity from high-tension wires or domestic lines illegally, for fencing the specified area and when elephants are available contact with these, they’re electrocuted to death. There have even been instances of human deaths when people have accidentally seen these fences.
Aaranyak steps in
The organization, Aaranyak, has been studying HEC across Assam. Various site-specific mitigation measures were applied to scale back incidents of conflict. Some worked and a few failed.
The challenge with mitigating HEC is that one must improvise the methods continuously to stay up with elephants. they’re intelligent beasts and shortly adapt to deterrent measures.
Villagers mostly resort to traditional measures of crop guarding, chasing elephants, and scaring them with fire-crackers, stone pelting, etc. The installation of electric fences is relatively new during this part of the country and has yielded high results. Thus, the utilization of electrical fences to ward-off elephants is on the increase.
In 2014, during a site called Subankhata, on the eastern a part of the Manas Tiger Reserve, Aaranyak held a dialogue with and convinced local communities to convert their illegal electric fences into solar-powered electric fences that are non-fatal.
With active participation from the villagers, a 14-kilometer-long fence was erected that benefitted about 1,000 households also as approximately 100-odd elephants that inhabit the world. Six years down the road, the fences are still functional and no incidents of an elephant or human deaths have occurred within the area.
Why do they raid crops?
In later years, a couple of more km of such fences were installed with improvised techniques. a complete of 24.5 km of solar-powered electric fences were erected at two sites in Baksa district and seven .5 km in Nagaon district with support from us Fish and Wildlife Service, and Elephant Family India Foundation. In another instance, a solar-powered electric fence was installed within the premises of a grade school in Nagaon district, with the support of Center for giant Landscape, Montana University, USA.
With this effort, about 10,000 households have benefited. The fences are erected in such a fashion that they encompass villages, without hampering the passage of elephants, thus fostering coexistence between both species. The mechanism of the fences is simple; when dusk sets in, the facility is placed on. The elephants coming in touch with the wires get a light shock, which deters them from raiding crop fields or destroying properties.
Besides reducing people’s economic losses, this setup also features a significant effect on their social life. During crop season, most men were out guarding the crops against wild elephant herds. The prolonged deprivation of sleep often harmed health and social life.
Solar-powered electric fences secured the villagers’ crops and houses. they might now spend peaceful nights. This, in turn, reduced the hostility towards the elephants and facilitated human-elephant coexistence.
The key to the success of the solar-powered fences was the involvement and capacity building of local communities. Villagers took a lively part in installing each fence — they provided materials like wooden/bamboo poles, devoted time to constructing the fence, and took responsibilities of maintenance. Aaranyak pitched in with technical know-how, equipment, and capacity building. within the future, we decide to reach bent more such affected areas and help them resolve HEC.
Nonetheless, Aaranyak is ‘buying time’ by installing solar-powered fences. At an equivalent time, we are working tirelessly for long-term solutions to resolve HEC by securing and restoring elephant habitats and corridors. Aaranyak also strongly advocates and urges competent authorities to think about HEC as a ‘disaster’, because the lives claimed by it have surpassed death tolls thanks to natural disasters like floods in Assam. The ‘disaster’ status will ensure more fund flow and better mitigation.
The model has worked well in Uttar Pradesh. In recent times, to mitigate HEC, the govt of Assam has launched anti-depredation squads of the forest department, who are well-trained and better equipped to affect HEC.
We hope that with proactive and pragmatic approaches, we will minimize HEC within the state and usher coexistence.