Linear infrastructure developments were coming in conflict with the objectives of wildlife conservation in many national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in India, an expert said here today.

As many as 72 of the documented 88 elephant corridors have national highways or other major roads passing through them and seven have railway lines, VB Mathur, Director of Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India, said.

Elephant casualties

More than 200 elephants had been killed in the country since 1987 by trains passing through forests, he said while speaking at a two-day workshop on elephant conservation in South Indian States jointly organised by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Kerala Forest Department.

Of the 50 Protected Areas (PAs), declared as tiger reserves in the country, major roads pass through 26, he said.

“In many of India’s national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves, linear infrastructure developments in the form of roads, railway lines, power lines and canals are in conflict with the objectives of wildlife conservation,” Mathur said.

As many as 30-50 cases of poaching of tuskers for ivory, 40-70 cases of electrocution and 20-30 cases of poisoning of elephants are reported across the country every year, he said.

Detailing the reasons leading to human-elephant conflicts, he said loss, degradation and fragmentation of jumbo habitat, blockage of corridors, illegal harvesting, enclaves within forests, labour colonies on corridors within tea/coffee estates, trespass, movement of pilgrims and so on would contribute to the menace.

‘Reproductive control’

Stressing the need to initiate research on ‘reproductive control’ of elephant population, the official said emphasis of elephant conservation programmes in future should be on improving the quality of life of the animal rather than on increasing their numbers.

“Smart and green infrastructure promotes both smart growth and smart conservation,” he added.

M S Negi, Additional Director General of Forests, Ministry of Environment and Forests, said the increasing population of animals in forests might be one of the reasons for the frequent human-animal conflicts.

Inaugurating the workshop, Kerala Forest Minister K Raju said the State, which has four identified jumbo corridors and reserves, is doing the elephant population estimation in regular intervals.