From the Viewsroom

Protecting the pachyderm

Dakshiani Palicha | Updated on August 16, 2020

India’s efforts to curb human-elephant conflict are inadequate

On August 12, World Elephant Day, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu reaffirmed India’s commitment to peaceful coexistence with Haathi Hamara Saathi. In fact, the previous day, Javadekar had launched the beta version of a national portal on human-elephant conflict (HEC), Surakshya, as well as a document on best coexistence practices.

HEC is, simply put, the adverse impact humans and elephants have on each other. That it is a problem in India, which is home to 60 per cent of the Asian elephant population, is not news. Just earlier this year, there was widespread outrage at reports of a pregnant elephant’s death after it ate a cracker-stuffed fruit in Kerala. Distressingly, activists reported 30 more elephant deaths across the country in just one month (May 27-June 29) after that incident.

It’s not just the pachyderms that are affected. Officials say more than 500 people and 100 elephants die each year due to conflict — crop raiding, unruly behaviour because of habitat loss, etc.

Efforts to address this have been taken. As far back as 1992, the government initiated Project Elephant to facilitate conservation. And, exactly 10 years ago this month, an Elephant Task Force (ETF) was appointed to review conservation efforts. The ETF came out with a report (Gajah — Securing the Future for Elephants in India) full of recommendations, including landscape management to preserve habitats, elephant-specific environmental impact assessments, and establishment of conflict management task forces. It also laid out how India could take the global lead in elephant conservation and facilitate international cooperation.

But, as thorough as these suggestions were, they remain largely unimplemented. The only notable steps taken were designation of the elephant as a National Heritage Animal and the announcement of an International Elephant Congress in 2013, which was later put off.

Clearly, a lot more can, and should, be done. Piecemeal initiatives will make little difference; the government must establish a focussed and full-fledged movement to save our elephants. As the ETF report says: “India cannot fail Gajah. The latter’s survival and ecological security is linked to our own.”

Published on August 16, 2020

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor