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Man-Elephant Conflict

Man-Elephant Conflict

 Man- Elephant Conflict in Kodagu

Problem and Implications
Elephants seek shelter in the dry, deciduous forests of Kodagu. But the decline in forest cover over time has reduced the inhabitable area and resources for these large populations of elephants. As a consequence, they venture into surrounding human inhabited areas, leading to HEC. It has been observed that practice of Teak monoculture in plantations suppresses nearly all undergrowth and causes soil erosion during the rainy season. This destroys the elephants’ natural habitat.

Background Research

History: The forests of Kodagu are largely confined to the eastern and western boundaries of the district. While the western side receives high rainfall and has evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, the eastern side is dominated by the dry, deciduous forests. Research tells us that forest cover in Kodagu has declined by about 18% in a span of 20 years and the smaller deciduous forests have been the biggest losers with a loss of 46% cover. 

The statistics are alarming. A report prepared by Mr. Bhuminathan on behalf of the WWF in 2008 tells us that over a period of fifteen years (19ak 91 – 2006) 33 of the 119 elephants that died were due to retaliatory killings. On the flipside, human population has grown drastically from less than 200,000 to over 550,000 today.

Current Scenario: Given the trends in population growth, there will is an increased focus on development. This will bring additional pressure on the natural resources and lead to a further decline in forest cover and quality. Elephant habitats continue to be degraded leading to habitat loss and fragmentation, particularly in the Somwarpet Subdivision. As a result of this, elephants raid crops as they see them as a source of food and in the process charter into human territory. HECs have led to crop damage, manslaughter and injuries to people. Humans, in retaliation, have illegally killed elephants on several occasions.

Role of CWS
CWS has taken up the responsibility for HEC mitigation. The organization is also part of the core committee on HEC formed on the directions of the Govt of Karnataka. Several recommendations have been made to the committee and field visits to conflict areas have been made with concerned officials.
Subsequently a number of discussions have been held to find practical solutions to the issue.

A proposal on Project Elephant for Kodagu has been made by the CWS. This will look at both HEC mitigation as well as conservation measures. We are under discussions with PCCF, Tata Coffee Limited and WWF to assist us to implement this project.

On the recommendation of CWS, a pilot project has been initiated by the Forestry College, Ponnampet to phase out Teak Monoculture.

Railway Line Across the Forest

Railway Line Across the Forest

ISSUE: Proposed railway link through Kodagu

The Railway Line with cut through pristine forest and private plantations

Problem and Implications
The proposed railway link from Mysore-Kushalnagar will pass through the forests of Somwarpet Subdivision, which is notorious for its high levels of Human Elephant Conflict in the country. The railway link will only add to the woes of the people and the elephants. Calf elephants will find it difficult to clamber up the steep rail embankments, further restricting the movement of entire sub-herds that are struggling to cope with fragmentation of their habitat. It will also compound the destruction and degradation of evergreen forest along the western side of Coorg.

Background Research                
Former railway minister Mamata Banerjee announced a line survey to process the long pending railway link between Mysore-Thalassery in February, 2010. But she faced stiff resistance from locals and environmentalists as this might result in destruction of Coorg’s wildlife habitat and livelihoods.

Role of CWS
In a recently conducted meeting, the PCCF (Principal Chief Conservator of Forests) was briefed about how the height of the railway embankment will result in the loss of thousands of trees in the forests and have adverse effect on corridors used by elephants and other wildlife for movement. The PCCF has agreed to look into the matter once the route of the proposed railway line is confirmed.

Illegal Sand Mining at Coorg

 Illegal Sand Mining in the rivers of Kodagu

Problem and Implications
Sand is increasingly mined from river beds as the demand for sand in industries and construction grows by the day. It is adversely affecting the ecology in and around the rivers of Kodagu. Continuous extraction of sand from riverbanks makes the area uneven and massive gaps are developed. This leads to mechanical disturbance in the habitat of the fishes thus leading to high mortality in their early life stages.

It has been observed that the migratory patterns of aquatic species are altered due to physical and thermal changes at/below the extraction sites. Not just that, mining also alters the form and structure of the channels by making them wider and shallower. Other implications are rise in temperature, decrease in nutrients and decrease in food production in the rivers. Fisheries are destroyed, causing problems for people who rely on fishing for their livelihood.

Background Research

History: A change from an agrarian economy to one that is more commercially oriented has created countless concrete jungles. This in turn has also spiked up the demand for raw materials required for construction; primarily sand. Rivers bring down sand from the hills to low lying areas. This makes the job simpler for a sand miner who extracts voluminous amounts of sand from these areas. What started as a simple process of removal of sand from certain sand beds has now become a widespread activity fuelled by greed and propelled by marauding machines.

Current Scenario: The underlying problem today is this: Sand is being removed at a much faster rate than what it is being deposited at. Suction devices can plumb large volumes of sands from any depth in rivers. Sand collected in the post monsoon period is later sold at unimaginably high prices.

Role of CWS
To put an end to the menace, CWS repeatedly requested the concerned authorities to regulate sand mining in the leased river stretches. But this attempt has been futile. Hence, CWS sought intervention from the Honorable High Court of Karnataka by filing a writ. petition to stall the granting of mining lease for extraction of sand from river Cauvery. This further resulted in the state government not granting any lease for mining in future to any private party.

In spite of this, sand mining activities continue in these river stretches to this day. The CWS is in constant touch with the Department of Mines and Geology to curtail this menace.

Hydel Projects in Coorg

Hydel Projects in Coorg

ISSUE: Construction of hydel plants in Kodagu

Problem and Implications
The construction of Barapolay Hydro Electric Plant across the Barapolay River at Palathinkadavu requires large reservoirs for operation and will lead to loss of land and habitat fragmentation. It will also disrupt the ecosystems surrounding the plant sites.

Background Research

History: The government of Kerala in 1974 notified the Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary for the construction of the Hydro Electric Power Plant despite laws stating that land and water bodies inside sanctuaries must not be disturbed.

Current Scenario: The Kerala State Electricity Board, the body that oversees the construction of the project had completed the tender procedures and were about to execute work when the Supreme Court of India issued an order to stop all work with immediate effect, until further instructions from the government.
Role of CWS.

The CWS filed a Public Interest Litigation to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) in June 2005, seeking a stay on the proposed project across the Barapolay river, which falls under the Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary. The CEC, after investigations, made recommendations to the Supreme Court through a report with results of their findings. Based on the report, the Supreme Court issued a stay order on the construction work. A copy of the order was also forwarded to CWS.

Locals Score a Victory against the Encroachment Culture in Coorg

Locals Score a Victory against the Encroachment Culture in Coorg

After the Barapole Dam was forced to change in scale and did no damage in Coorg, there is another bit of good news for the Nature-loving people of this district.

Kaveri Sene has won a case in court, preventing the Government from handing over precious Gomala land to various parties for construction.

The State Government wanted to hand over 24 acres of Gomala (cattle grazing land) at Arji Village, near Virajpet, to a Valmiki Community Bhavan, a police quarters and a religious site.

Two of our stalwarts Keethianda C Subbaiah who is an Arji Village local, and Ravi Chengappa of Kaveri Sene went to Court to stop the State Government from taking over 24 precious acres of open Gomala grazing land.

The court has instructedthe Government not to use Gomala land for any development activity.Open Gomala land is vital catchment area for rain water to supply streams, wells and rivers. Besides cattle have a natural right to it.

While speaking to Ravi Chengappa, he revealed that another such attempt was being made by the Government .

“I have filed a similar case against an attempt to take overGomala land in Kushalnagar too,” he said.

Encroachment has been eroding our Nature and culture steadily over the last few decades.Now there is a light at the end of the tunnel.