Tura, Sep 22: A one-day inception workshop for a project on ‘Promotion of Coexistence in Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) Hotspots in Northeast India-mitigation and intervention’ was held at the circuit house here today.
The programme was organised by the Meghalaya Forest Department, West Garo Hills in collaboration with Aaranyak and the British Asian Trust.
It may be mentioned that the department is implementing an innovative project to enable human elephant co-existence at the landscape level in Northeast India by safeguarding the lives and livelihoods of people and elephants, resulting in improved welfare of communities and biodiversity conservation.
The department had also adopted a multi stakeholder approach to mitigate the rising human-elephant conflict in few selected villages of the West and North Garo Hills districts of Meghalaya.
Speaking during the workshop, the West Garo Hills Deputy Commissioner, Swapnil Tembe emphasized on the need to form a kind of Quick Response Team at the village level so that as and when the need arises they can respond and act promptly.
He also said that the team should be provided training and also educate the villagers about elephants, their behaviour and coexistence with humans. He also suggested to explore the possibilities among line departments and also to converge with MGNREGA for bio-fencing if possible and advised the members of the organisation to collaborate with Voluntary Protection Squad already formed by the Forest department to mitigate human-elephant conflict.
In his presentation on the “Promotion of Co-existence in Human-Elephant Conflict Hotspots in Northeast India”, Dr. Bibhuti P Lahkar, Head, ERCD, Aaranyak said that human-elephant conflict is a complex issue and highlighted different issues, problems and conflict situation in Meghalaya adding that about 30 persons died because of HEC while 21 were injured.
Stating that for next three years, the organisation is going to work in West and North Garo Hills district, he said that they have selected four villages of West Garo Hills District which are in close proximity to elephant habitat or elephant corridors, villages having maximum number of conflict, etc.
Further, while mentioning few of the proposed activities in these areas, he said that outreach and awareness programs would be conducted to sensitize the villagers and conservation organisations on the potential role they can play in safeguarding both elephants and people and also train them to install solar powered electric fencing to protect crops without harming elephants including identifying of other livelihood options to supplement their income.
Moreover, he also suggested for bio fencing in which three rows of lemon plants can be planted to protect the crops, etc. Seeking support and cooperation of all line departments such as Agriculture, Animal Husbandry & Veterinary, Power, MBDA, etc. he said that the Forest department alone cannot manage these issues and needs the collaboration of all departments as well as the participation of all stakeholders to safeguard both elephants and people of the region.
Dr. Alolika Sinha, Manager, ERCD, Aaranyak highlighted the background of the workshop and informed that Aaranyak is a non-profit, non-government conservation organisation based in Assam and has been working towards mitigating HEC and facilitating human-elephant coexistence using multi-pronged approaches.
She also mentioned that the organisation had developed an elephant conservation plan for northeast India and ensures coexistence in the region. The elephant conservation project of Aaranyak is partnered by British Asian Trust and supported by Darwin Initiative Fund, UK which aims to facilitate coexistence by empowering local communities, reduce poverty by protecting lives and livelihood while also protecting elephants to reduce biodiversity loss, she stated.
Superintendent of Taxes, West Garo Hills Tura and a Conservationist Bhuto Marak who had been creating awareness about conservation and wildlife for the last six years in Garo Hills region shared his vivid observation with the participants and suggested them to deal with the actual issues that happen in the area.
He also insisted on identifying people especially in villages from the community to look after the conservation and protect the wildlife in the area.