Bhanjanagar: Utility poles in tilting, rickety conditions in elephant corridors of Ganjam district are posing a serious threat to the lives of pachyderms. In Ganjam district, 42 elephants have died due to various reasons during the last 10 years, out of which 14 deaths have been due to electrocution.
For poachers to kill elephants by electrocution is a very popular method. They usually place live wires in the jungles by hooking those with transmission lines. When an elephant comes in contact with a live wire, it suffers a painful death. Also sagging power lines are another cause behind elephant deaths, sources added.
Usually census of the elephants in Ganjam district is done every two years. Since 2019 however, there has been no census. No one knows when it will be conducted.
Sources said that two elephants were electrocuted in Mujagarh forest range under North Ghumusar division in December, 2012. Earlier in October 2012, two elephants met a similar fate in the Galeri forest range. Then in the same month, two more elephants were electrocuted in the Khallikote forest range.
In August 2013, one elephant died after coming in contact with a live wire in the Rambha forest range under Berhampur forest division. In the same month, four other jumbos were electrocuted to death in Buguda forest range under South Ghumusar forest division.
Similarly, a jumbo died due to electrocution at Tarsingh range in December, 2018 and another in Central forest limits in June 2021. It was also suspected that one tusker was electrocuted at Jagannathprasad forest range in July 20, this year.
The large number of elephant electrocution deaths became a huge source of worry to the Odisha government. It sanctioned Rs 445.75 crore two years back to repair the power infrastructure in forests of the state.
The department of Energy is using a portion of this fund to repair the power infrastructure in North Ghumusar forest division in Ganjam district. Locals, however, alleged that due to shoddy repairing work, the utility poles continue to pose threats to the pachyderms.
The tilting electric poles in Mujagarh reserve forest alongside Bhanjanagar- Mujagarh National Highway is a case in point. In this forest, many poles were found in precarious conditions posing a threat to the lives of jumbos.
This area is a well-known elephant corridor. Locals fear that if the poles are not repaired immediately, not just elephants but many other wild animals may die due to electrocution.
It should be stated here that there is a distinct lack of coordination between officials of the Energy and Forest departments. The last time a meeting of the two departments took place was in July. It was then decided that officials of the two departments will meet at least once in a month. However, nothing much has happened since them.
Mujagarh ranger Bimbadhar Sahu said that in the last meeting Energy department officials were urged to resolve the problems with the power lines inside the jungle.
Executive engineer of Tata Power Jagatjit Das Mohapatra said repair work of the utility poles have been completed in North Ghumusar forest division. He added that work to repair such poles in Jagannathprasad and Tilisingi ranges are underway. Utility poles found in precarious conditions are being repaired on an urgent basis, he further stated.