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Indian Environment Ministry in PPP mode to raise jumbo corridors
In a bid to reduce man-elephant conflicts in the country and restore elephant corridors, the Environment Ministry is working on Public Private Partnership (PPP) with wildlife NGOs to connect the 88 identified elephant corridors with forests. According to the model, corridor lands held by private owners are acquired and handed back to the State.
The Centre is also considering hiking the compensation for voluntary resettlement of residents from corridor areas to increase the habitat areas available to elephants.
The success stories of PPP in restoring links of elephant corridors have come from the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), particularly from the four areas where it has worked. These include the Edayarhalli- Doddasampige in Kollegal (Karnataka), Chilla-Motichur (Uttarakhand), Siju-Rewak (Meghalaya), and Tirunelli-Kudrakotte in Wayanad (Kerala).
“A positive outcome of the connectivity efforts is a higher recorded presence of elephants in the Wayanad corridor, elimination of train-hit mortality of elephants in Uttarakhand and tremendous community participation in Meghalaya,” said Vivek Menon, CEO of WTI.
He informed that WTI is presently working on nine elephant corridors. In the Garo hills of Meghalaya, it has secured 1,500 hectares. In other locations, the quantum of land is much smaller, at about 25 hectares each.
According to Director Project Elephant, AM Singh, fragmented habitats and insular populations are the biggest challenges for conservation of animals like elephants. He said the department’s top priority was to increase the compensation amount in a way that people voluntarily move out of the corridor areas. He informed that a committee would soon be constituted to look into the issue. “We are particularly focusing on the North-eastern States where the incidents of man-elephant conflicts are more rampant,” he said. The Centre has released `20 crore for 2011-12 for the functioning of Project Elephant.
Singh further pointed out that a confident estimate of the jumbo population in the country would be close to 30,000. The respective State Governments can act as per the legal provisions under Wildlife Protection Act and Environment Protection Act to free the sensitive corridor areas that can substantially reduce man-elephant conflicts
He pointed out that future challenges for the country in securing elephant corridors involve entering into bilateral agreements with the neighbouring countries of Bangladesh Nepal and Bhutan.
It is time that the importance of corridors be realised by the Ministry considering the increasing number of man-elephant conflicts in the country, said Biswajeet Mohanty from Wildlife Society of Orissa, member organisation of National Board For Wildlife (NBWL). Odisha is one of the worst hit by such conflicts and the reason for this is abruptly fragmented habitats caused by developmental projects. Considering the importance of such areas, NBWL members have already proposed for bringing corridor areas too under the ambit of Board prior to project approvals.