Jhapa residents losing lives to electric fences, elephant attacksAccording to the District Police Office, eight people have been killed in elephant attacks in the last three years while the number of people dying from illegal electric fences is seven.
On September 29, Suklal Mardi and his wife Latumai Mardi of Garamani in Birtamod Municipality headed towards the Chandragadi Community Forest to collect Fiddlehead fern.
As the couple were picking the plant, Latumai was attacked by an elephant and dragged into the forest. A search team comprising personnel from Nepal Police and Nepal Army located Latumai’s body deep inside the forest later that afternoon.
Two weeks after Latumai’s death, another woman— 52-year-old Kalpana Rai of Kendra Mode in Bhadrapur of Jhapa district—lost her life because of an elephant. But this time, it wasn’t an elephant that killed her but a live electric wire fence set up to prevent elephants from entering settlements.
Elephant menace is prevalent in several places of Jhapa district. But besides elephant attacks, local residents have also been dying of electric fences set up without proper planning.
“People are dying because of the very fence that they set up to escape elephant menace,” said DSP Rakesh Thapa, spokesperson at the District Police Office, Jhapa. “We have requested local residents not to build live electric fences but they hardly pay any heed to us.”
According to the District Police Office, eight people have been killed in elephant attacks in the last three years while the number of people dying from illegal electric fences is seven.
Despite the high number of deaths due to live electric fences, authorities have shown no concern in resolving the issue.
“This issue does not fall under our purview. The electricity office should look into it,” said Om Nath Bhattarai, information officer at the Division Forest Office. “Electric current should not be allowed to pass through the wire, but the locals do not comply and people are losing their lives because of it.”
Last year, 60-year-old Badri Thapaliya of Magurmadi in Mechinagar Municipality lost her life after coming in contact with a live electric fence. A year before that, in 2019, Badri’s brother had also lost his wife to an unmanaged electric fence.
Meanwhile, the settlements in the northern and southern parts of the district face the menace of wild elephants every year.
Every year, wild elephants that move between Nepal and India have been wreaking havoc in several areas of the district, including in Bahundangi, Buddhashanti, Arjundhara, Birtamod and Mechinagar in the north and Bhadrapur, Haldibari, Barhadashi, Kachankawal and other areas in the south.
According to local residents, they are forced to put up electric fencing around their homes and farms to save their livelihoods.
“We set up electric fences around our homes to be safe from wild elephants,” said Rohit Dhungana of Magurmadi. “We need to save our crops from the elephants.”