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Anti-electrocution cells to keep close tab to prevent wildlife deaths in North Bengal

Anti-electrocution cells to keep close tab to prevent wildlife deaths in North Bengal
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Darjeeling: A joint meeting of the West Bengal forest department and the power department has resolved to constitute anti-electrocution cells to keep a close tab to ensure that unnatural death of wildlife can be prevented specially owing to electrocution.

The meeting was held in the wake of a Division bench of the Calcutta High Court taking suo moto cognizance of the increasing number of unnatural wildlife deaths in North Bengal.

On October 13, the Division Bench presided by the Chief Justice, Calcutta High Court had given certain directions on this issue. The Division Bench stated that in the last 5 years 25 elephants had perished owing to electrocution including 9 alone this year in North Bengal.

The meeting determined that the principal cause of unnatural death of the elephants was the unauthorized extension of low-tension domestic electric lines on the periphery of the forests and electrification of fences that has led to the death of the elephants coming in contact with the fences accidentally as they are unable to withdraw reflexively.

"It was decided that anti-electrocution cells constituting of local officers of the Forest department; WBSEDCL; District administration; Panchayats and police will be reconstituted and convened by Forest officials, at the earliest" stated Vinod Yadav, PCCF, Wildlife.

The task of these cells will be to strategise various preventive and mitigation measures and monitor ways to stop setting up of illegal electric fences. The cell will also identify sagging High Tension lines that need to be raised and will also identify electric poles near elephant corridors that need to be wrapped with barbed wire to stop elephants from leaning on them.

Along with this, elephant corridors will be identified. To prevent wayward movement of elephants and to guide them along with existing corridors, the forest department will identify vulnerable areas and will set up three-strand energized electric fences emitting low voltage, pulsating current.

Labour colonies of the tea gardens on the fringes of forest areas are found to be putting up these illegal electric fences, fatal for the pachyderms. GIS mapping will also be taken up. The meeting also resolved that the two departments would work in close coordination to prevent further damages.

"The problem is more acute in the North Bengal districts. The number of deaths in South Bengal was nil this year," stated Yadav.

"Unnatural death of elephants stands at around 284 from 2010 to 2019 in North Bengal," stated Koustav Choudhury, President, Society for Nature and Animal Protection. This year alone elephant death count stood at 11 till mid-October in North Bengal.

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