Sambalpur: People in forest-side villages in the district are a worried lot as elephants enter vicinities of these villages causing extensive damage to standing crops and human habitats.
However, the forest department has found an innovative way to curb the increasing incidents of man-animal conflict by erecting electric fencing powered by solar panels. The estimated cost solar fencing comes to about Rs 2 lakhs per kilometre.
Divisional forest officer (DFO) Sanjit Kumar said his department has a proposal to erect solar fencing across seven kilometres in two blocks to prevent elephants from moving into the protected villages.
He has approved proposals for two solar fencing walls– one is two kms long at Lipinda village in Rengali block and another five kms long at Jhankarpali-Kunder villages in Jujumura block.
He said solar fencing is better than conventional electric fencing as any elephant trying to touch solar fencing may get an electric shock, but it won’t be fatal but powerful enough to discourage animals to touch it once again.
The DFO said there are several incidents wherein elephants have died of electric shocks as they came in touch with high voltage wires. The low voltage solar fencing is designed to discourage jumbos but not to kill them.
Forest department sources said damage of standing crops pushed about 50 farmers to penury even as 30 houses in Lipinda and Keseipali grampanchayats in Jujumura block were reduced to rubble.
Similarly, a large herd of about 28 elephants entered Dantari and Beherenbasa villages a week ago in that block causing extensive damage to houses.
It is a regular phenomenon in forest-side villages that pachyderms enter these villages causing damage to standing crops. Sources from Rengali forest range said a herd of about 25 elephants stay near Haldi-Mural villages from January to July every year. They are seen coming to a village pond to drink water and destroy crops. PNN