Keonjhar: Digging up trenches for slurry pipelines in elephant corridors is posing serious threats to the lives of pachyderms in Keonjhar district, sources said Tuesday. This development comes at a time when the Forest department is taking a number of steps for the safety of elephants and to prevent man-animal conflicts in the district. Officials expressed surprise and feigned ignorance regarding the trenches. However, lengthy trenches have been dug up adjacent to the jungle and close to National Highway 20. Industrial firms are planning to use pipelines for the transportation of minerals. The consultancy agency entrusted with the responsibility of digging up the trenches has stopped work. It did so after a section of the media reported that the company was cutting trees illegally.
More importantly, the dug-up trenches have not been filled up. As a result, the movement of elephants is always plagued with danger. Sources said the initiative by the Forest department comes after elephant deaths at frequent intervals became a cause of concern in the district. It has identified the places through which the pachyderms move. The department has also put up warning signs for people who commute in the areas through which elephants travel.
Officials informed that the elephants frequently use a portion of National Highway-20 near Badapasi under Sadar forest range to move from one side of the jungle to the other. The department has also constructed an underpass so that the elephants do not have to frequent the highway. Social activist Pradip Mohanty informed that the elephants might lose their tracks on noticing the trenches and stray into nearby villages. It will only increase the man-animal conflict, he said. Mohanty added that digging trenches near the underpass will also affect the safe movement of the pachyderms.
Environmentalists apprehended that elephants and calves while moving in darkness may fall into these trenches and die or get injured. They have asked the Forest department to take immediate steps and fill up the trenches. When contacted, Sadar forest range officer Bijay Kumar Mohanta said the pipe laying work has been stopped for the time being. Also, the agency has been asked to ensure adequate safety measures as the area is an elephant corridor. He added that the agency will be held responsible for untoward incidents