Army ammunition depot preventing green corridor for elephants in Uttarakhand

Dehra Dun: Wild elephants have been keeping the villagers on tenterhooks for quite some years now. It is not only that their crops have become a write off, as the herds of pachyderms snack on them freely, but they are now known to also attack human beings and habitats.

The villagers living in the periphery of the Rajai and Motichur sanctuaries, particularly in the Rishikesh, Raiwala, Motichur and adjoining areas have been meeting the wild life and forest authorities regularly, requesting that they be provided some safety from the marauding herds, but to no avail.

In fact, the forest department authorities while admitting that the wild elephant herds were a menace to the crops being grown by the villagers and eating them year after year, suggested that they shift to some other crop, which the pachyderms do not eat. They even suggested growing chillies as cash crop, but could not give any assurance of finding a market for the crop.

The forest department has been trying to create a green corridor for the elephants herds in the Chilla-Motichur area so that they can move from one forest compartment to another in search of fodder and not eat the crops grown by the villagers when they get fodder in their wild habitat. It may be mentioned here that the Ganga canal cut off the traditional migration route of the wild elephants and stranded them in various pockets.

Official sources said that once this corridor is established, the wild elephants herds will get a part of their traditional migration route and may not have to then move to villages and eat the crops grown by villagers, as they will have enough fodder in the wild.

“The process of re-establishing the green corridor has started and some of the families that have settled and made homes in the area are being shifted after giving compensation, so that there is no difficulty in the movement of the pachyderms. But the army ammunition depot is now proving a major hurdle in the establishment of the green corridor”, they claimed.

They said that the army ammunition depot came up in the seventies, while in the eighties the residents of the villages that were coming in the back waters of the Tehri Dam reservoir were shifted and settled here., because of which the other migration route of the elephants from Chilla to Motichur forest areas was disturbed.

Sources said that with Rajaji National Park being notified, steps were taken to re-establish this green corridor and as far as the army ammunition depot is concerned the apex court of the country had directed way back in 2007 that 100 acres of land be given for its shifting, but the Dehra Dun forest division does not have that much land at one stretch to transfer it to the army authorities.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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