With electric fencing gone, elephant encounters riseThe animals destroy houses and crops making life difficult for residents of Baduwal village.
Mahabir Chhetri, a local of Baduwal village in ward 3 of Dodhara Chandani Municipality, lost his crops to a herd of wild elephants that entered his field three weeks ago. Chhetri had planted paddy, maize and sesame in five kattha [1 kattha is 338.63 sq metres] of land hoping for a good yield.
“Wild elephants have made our lives miserable. They have snatched our livelihood,” said Chettri. “Earlier we used to try and chase the elephants away by making loud noises but they retaliated and we had to run for our lives. These days we don’t try to stop them.”
Baduwal village, surrounded by the Jogbudha River and the Mayapuri community forest that fall inside the Shuklaphanta National Park buffer zone, also borders a national forest in Uttarakhand, India. The wild elephants enter the settlement from these forests.
According to Chhetri, seven years ago, the locals had installed electric fences to protect the fields from elephants with the help of Tarai Arc Landscape and Mayapuri Community Forest. For a couple of years, the farmers were free of elephant terror, but due to the lack of maintenance the fences were soon breached by the elephants.
Chandrakala Magar, another villager, said that after the fences were gone, the elephants became more aggressive.
“Elephants usually come from the Indian forest and enter Mayapuri. They enter the village and wreak havoc. Just two weeks ago, a herd of elephants tore down the house of Tilsara Gharti Magar in the village,” said Chandrakala. “Three years ago three women who had gone to the Mayapuri community forest to collect firewood were killed by an elephant.”
The locals who are dependent on the resources from the forest for their daily use have stopped entering the forest for fear of elephants. “We have stopped going to the forests. We can’t graze our cattle or collect firewood. It’s becoming difficult to survive,” said Chandrakala.
Locals of Baduwal village would frequently go to the Indian markets on the other side of the border to buy daily essentials but they have stopped going for fear of elephants.
According to Dodhara Chandani Municipality, there are 250 families living in Baduwal village.
Tilsara Gharti Magar, whose house was destroyed two weeks ago, said that the Shuklaphanta National Park distributes relief in cases of property damage and attacks, among other things, but in cases of agricultural damage, there are no compensations.
“Seeking compensation from the park is a tedious process. They ask us to show so much paperwork that most locals don’t even apply for compensation,” said Gharti Magar.
Hari Singh Dhanadi, the chairman of ward 3 of the Dodhara Chandani Municipality, said that they have collected the details of the affected farmers who are yet to receive compensation and submitted them to the disaster management committee of the municipality. Due to a lack of budget, the municipality is only able to pay a small amount compared to the damage incurred by the locals.
“Locals have demanded electric fences again, but the municipality does not have sufficient budget and resources to fund the fencing project,” said Dhanadi. “Big fires, loud noises, and sirens, among other things, used to easily scare the elephants earlier, but now they are fighting back. They even attack people unprovoked. We have drawn the attention of higher authorities to this issue.”