Undeterred by refusals from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to grant sanction for using the Compensatory Afforestation and Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) funds for straightening high voltage electric lines in Orissa’s forest areas, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday dashed off another letter to Union Minister Jayanthi Natarajan seeking sanction for the same.
Naveen’s letter to Natarajan came in the backdrop of mowing down of elephants by a speeding Coromandel Express near Subalaya in Ganjam district on December 30. The elephants — three females, a tusker, a calf and a foetus inside a female elephant’s womb — were killed after being hit by the Chennai-bound train at 12:43 am. The train was moving at a speed of 110 km an hour when it hit the elephant herd passing over the railway track.
While speeding trains are one of the many dangers for elephants, electrocution due to sagging power lines has emerged as the main cause of rising elephant deaths. Between 2009 and August 2012, 252 elephant were killed in Orissa. The state, which has almost 80 per cent of elephants in the entire eastern India, has seen a dramatic decline in elephant population with at least four to five elephants being electrocuted in the state every month due to sagging high voltage lines in the forests. During the past 11 years, more than 110 elephants have been killed by electrocution. The state’s elephant population, according to official census, has plummeted from 2,044 in 1979 to 1,886 in 2010.
In his letter to Natarajan, Naveen requested grant of Rs 32 crore from CAMPA fund for 2012-13 on account of strengthening of power transmission lines. “The death of elephants due to electrocution is a matter of serious concern. The funding support from CAMPA for strengthening transmission lines will go a long way in preventing such avoidable loss of precious wildlife,” he wrote.
A few months ago, the MoEF had refused to give sanction for such use as it was not strictly related to conservation of wildlife and forests.