The struggle to claim habitats by elephants and the human effort to concretise the same areas have taken a serious turn in Chhattisgarh, with 15 districts of the State affected by a wild elephant menace. Herds of elephants are now roaming free in these villages, crushing the crops and even people to death. On an average, at least two people are killed in attacks by wild elephants every week in Chhattisgarh.
Elephants have turned into a menace also for the State’s power distribution company (discom) that has suffered major losses. The companies have lost Rs 1,674 crore in the past 18 years owing to its logistics destroyed by elephants.
The discom in the State has been instructed to raise power cables located in forest areas and install aerial bunches (AB) cables with insulators. It will cost about Rs 1,674 crore.
The State-run power company was trying to recover this amount from the Forest Department, but the Union Forest and Environment Ministry has directed the company to do this work from its own budget, citing the directions of the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed at the High Court in January 2018 seeking redress by social activist Nitin Singhvi. He said that during the hearing, the power company said in the court it was taking other measures including raising the height of the overhead wires. The court disposed of the petition, saying that the resolution did not mean that the power company should shut down.
The court directed the firm to explore alternatives and take other measures including increasing the height of the power cables. The power company issued a demand note, unsuccessfully seeking compensation from the Forest Department for the expenditure of Rs 1,674 crore.
At the same time, elephants can hardly be said to have found a sanctuary here, as 44 pachyderms have died in the State over the course of 18 years due to electrocution by bare wires passing through villages and forests.