With nearly four dozen elephants dying because of electrocution in the last five years in West Bengal, the state government is now planning to insulate the low-tension wires that crisscross the elephant corridors.
The forest and power departments are also planning to install energized electrical fences at some locations along elephant corridors. The fences will have low voltage pulsating current which would ensure that the animals don’t cross them.
The initiative came after the Calcutta High Court in September took suo moto cognizance of reports of elephant electrocution in the state. In October, the division bench of the HC passed orders to stop elephant deaths by electrocution.
According to forest department data, at least 47 elephants have been electrocuted in West Bengal till date since 2015. While 22 were killed in south Bengal, another 25 were killed in north Bengal.
“Often villagers set up electrical fences by illegally tapping electricity. When the elephants touch the fences, they are killed. We are also coming up with multi-departmental anti-electrocution cells which would also comprise local authorities which would work on the ground to prevent such things,” said a senior state forest department official.
Forest officials said that apart from the illegal fencing which kills animals often it has been seen that elephants tend to lean against electrical poles of high-tension wires. If the poles get charged somehow because of leakage during monsoon the elephant gets killed.
“We will cover the poles with barbed wires to prevent elephants from leaning against them. This will help to save their lives,” said an official.
The WBSEDCL will check why the circuit breakers for the high-tension feeder lines did not trip after elephants came in contact with them in the past, another official said.
The tea garden managements may not be encouraging the setting up of illegal electric fences but there are several such fences near labour colonies that cause electrocution of the elephants, he said.
The forest department will identify tea gardens adjacent to elephant corridors and the cells will ensure that the management of the estates erect only low-voltage fences, the official said.
While north Bengal has around 550 elephants, there are around 200 elephants in south Bengal. Man-elephant conflict is common in West Bengal and villagers sometimes kill elephants to save their crops and property.