Earth Belongs to all species

Increase in man animal conflict

Highlights of field visits to Territorial Division and Wild Life division of Thithimathi Range of Karnataka Forest Department on 08-07-2016

Kodagu district, the micro hotspot of biodiversity along the Western Ghats considered as one of the 8 Hottest Hotspots of biodiversity in the world, is the life sustaining oxygen bowl of Southern India. The river Cauvery, lifeline of South India originates from this visually beautiful and ecologically bountiful fragile district with 80% of its 4108 sq.km area under tree cover is threatened and has called for organised activities to protect this unique landscape. The threats are from excessive human depredation and indiscriminate pressure on its natural resources. Degradation of natural forests, Loss of tree cover and diversity, degradation and loss in aquatic ecosystem, depletion of ground water resources, Economic instability due to continuous and persistent negative impact on the mainstream activity of coffee cultivation in the form of low prices, crop loss, labour problems, increasing human elephant conflicts, land use changes, are some of the pressures calling for attention to save this landscape. A group of likeminded people and organizations who are stakeholders and are aware and involved in conservation activities came forward and united to form an organisation which ultimately culminated into “Kodagu Model Forest Trust” (KMFT) with the aim to work with the people of Kodagu to retain “Our Health - The Ecosystem” through conservation and sustainable utilization of “Our natural wealth - the God given resources of Kodagu”.

An eight pronged strategic plan to address the issues was prepared and programmes designed to rejuvenate the social, cultural, ecological and economic stability of this unique landscape. Accordingly, KMFT has been mobilising support from various organisations, funding agencies, government, research institutions, general public and NGOs who are the stakeholders for maintenance of the health of this landscape. Several projects involving the general public, the major stakeholder, has been initiated and has received public acceptance. Programmes directed at building partnership with government, NGOs, community organisations, private companies along with people of Kodagu has gained acceptance and momentum calling strategic action from the administration.

One such programme through partnership building with NGO-Government-Community is being implemented in mitigation of Human-Elephant-Conflict (HEC) in the fringe areas of the only National Park of Kodagu, Nagarahole. HEC issues over the years have been the most debated and unsolved problem in the fringe areas. This is also an indicator for the degradation of natural forests. The degradation of natural forests is due to excessive interference by the human, the most interdependent part in the series of complex biotic communities maintaining the ecological balance of nature. The project along with mitigating the HEC issue aims to understand the cause for degradation of the natural habitat of elephants, destruction of elephant corridors and work to improve the natural habitat through partnerships. The programme thus conceptualised, initiated and implemented by the KMFT is “The Green Village Community Forum” (GVCF).

The partnership is between the Kodagu Model Forest, Karnataka Forest Department and the Communities living in the problem area consisting of coffee planters, plantation labourers, tribal settlement and the local governing body. The objective is achieved through education and demonstration. The Forest Department builds the infrastructure, while community jointly maintains the infrastructure by generating the required fund from within the community and with technical support from the KMFT. KMFT has contributed an amount of Rs. 50,000/ (Rupees Fifty Thousand only) as seed money towards the GVCF.

The programme was initiated on the 30th October 2008. Various issues concerned to health, education, solid waste, water and Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) were identified through a survey. Meetings and discussion with the stakeholders decided concluded to consider Human –Elephant Conflict was prioritized as the issue which requires immediate attention. The project framework was planned through various meetings with stakeholders at different levels and the decisions along with the ‘framework was put across to the officials of Karnataka Forest Department requesting for their participation through partnership. The project got a boost when Mr. B.K. Singh, IFS, PCCF-Wildlife and his team readily agreed to this partnership and visited the site on 25th June 2009 for assessing the situation after which they extended their full cooperation for installing the projects by sanctioning the necessary funds to create infrastructure. This project is looking forward in bringing about a long term solution in mitigation of the Human Elephant Conflict in and around areas along the stretch of 27 kms covering Nellicad, Abboor, Hebbale, Mudagadde, Badragola, Devamachhi, Thithimathi, Maroor, Nokya, Marapala, Bemmathi, Kanambadi, Ambukote, Seegethodu villages.

The effort towards this has culminated in the formation of a registered body called “Green Village Community Forum” (GVCF) with representative from the Karnataka Forest Department, Kodagu Model Forest Trust and the communities living around the problem areas.

Thithimathi Devarapura area had various issues related to Health, Education, Water (supply and distribution), Man – animal conflict and Solid Waste Management (SWM). In this area except Water, SWM and Man-Animal Conflict, other issues have been addressed by other organizations working in this region. Health issue is being addressed by Skanda Coffee along with Biocon Foundation; Education aspects are taken care by Government and voluntary institutions. In accordance to the need and demand from the residents it was decided to start with activities related Man – Animal Conflict. This belt is along the fringe areas of Rajiv Gandhi National Park and the Nagarahole Reserve Forest. Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) is the largest problem in this area affecting the daily livelihood of people in and around Thithimathi region including Nokia, Hebbale and Devarapura villages. All activities concerning plantation labourers, school going children, farmers including coffee growers are affected due to HEC problems. Hence it was unanimously decided to consider HEC as the major issue to be addressed by Kodagu Model Forest Trust®.

Based on the above analysis and the request from the communities Green Village Community Forum was formed mainly to mitigate Human Elephant Conflict.

Members Present:

1. Mr. Manoj Kumar- CCF- Kodagu Division.

2. Mr. Kantharaj- CCF (WL)- Hunsur Division.

3. Dr. P. Shankar- DCF- Virajpet Division.

4. Dr. Ramakrishna Hegde- Associate Professor – HOD- Soc and Env Forestry – COFP and Technical Head of FLR project.

5. Col. C.P. Muthanna- President- Coorg Wild Life Society ®.

6. Mr. C. Sherry Subbaiah- Hon. Secretary- Kodagu Model Forest Trust ® and project Coordinator- HEC- GVCF.

7. Mr. M.T Subbaiah- President- GVCF.

8. Mrs. Asha James- Secretary- GVCF.

9. Mr. Surya Sen- ACF- Thithimathi Division.

10. Mr. Sripathi- ACF (WL)- Hunsur Division.

11. Mr. Gopal- RFO- Thithimathi Division.

12. Mr. Kiran Kumar- RFO (WL)- Thithimathi Division.

13. Division Foresters, Guards and watchers.

 

Visit to Territorial Division

The team visited sites in about 23 kilometers of the territorial division in the forenoon starting from the chain gate Thithimathi to Aboor in Badragola- Devarapura.

Sites Visited: 1. Devamachi 2. Reshmehadlu 3. Hebbale 4. Mudagadde 5. Kattegadde on the fringe of the forests and took stock of the HEC mitigation work carried out and also took note of the ground situation to take further action on the issue.

The team returned back for lunch at 2:00 pm and after lunch reviewed their visit and the following decisions were taken:

1. It was decided to continue the pitching work implemented at Devamachi and also to clear the earth in the EPT’s wherever required all along the stretch and to plant Agave on the earth mound.

2. It was decided to desilt balance of around 12 water holes inside the Range.

3. It was decided to make functional all gates installed all along the boundary by closing the same in order to prevent the elephants from entering private area.

4. As the elephant movement is maximum in the forest in Hebbale Village opposite the depot it was decided to install preventive barricades from Rammaiah’s house till Mudagadde (an area of 1.5 kilometers in order to have permanent solutions to the conflict.

5. All rock formation to be removed all along the EPT’s wherever found.

6. Afforestation program to be taken up by sowing of seeds all along the range.

Visit to Forest Land Restoration program sites at Reshmehadlu under Kodagu Model Forest Trust ® - Village Forest Committee ® - College of Forestry- Coorg Wildlife Society ® - Green Village Community Forum ® and the Karnataka Forest Department.

The team visited the FLR site area at Reshmehadlu- Hebbale Village and decided to immediately take up seed sowing operations in the FLR sites. The College of Forestry was requested to make available the necessary seed materials for sowing in the site till such time the main project takes off.

Visit to Wildlife Division

The team post lunch visited in about 12 kilometers area of the wildlife division starting from Karekandi/ Chowdikatte at Thithimathi to Chembukolli/ Marapala in Nokya Village. Sites Visited: 1. Chowdikatte 2. Bambookadu 3. Jayapura Estate 4. Jungladi 5. Marapala on the fringe of the forests and took stock of the HEC mitigation work carried out and also took note of the ground situation to take further action on the issue.

The team returned back at 6:00 pm and reviewed their visit and the following decisions were taken:

1. Decided to install approximately 7 Kms of railway sleeper barricades at 3 sites where the incidence of elephant movement and crossover in maximum.

a. Chowdikatte river to Bambookadu approximately 2 Kms.

b. Beginning of Jayapura Estate to Jungladi Approximately 2.5 Kms.

c. From Marapala Bridge to Chembukolli approximately 2.5 Kms.

It was decided to prepare a DPR for approval immediately for early implementation.

2. It was agreed to take up desilting of water holes in the range in the following tanks.

a. Bambookadu Tank.

b. Jungladi Tank.

c. Kunjiraman Katte Tank.

d. To install a check dam at Aiyarasuli to store flowing water in order to agument water for elephants.

3. It was decided to install an Anti Poaching Squad (APS) at Marapala immediately to monitor the movement of elephants and for better mitigation.

4. Earth Debris in the EPT’s to be cleared for proper maintenance wherever required.

5. The removal of the existing solar fence all along the main road from Bambookadu to Marapala for better view of animal movements and also to plant Agave on the earth mound.

6. Agreed to send proposal for the capture of the Elephant which killed a person at Thithimathi Town for future safety.

7. Closing of EPT’s in about 5 sites all along the EPT’s from Anechoukur Gate to Allur Forest gate for movement of elephants and wildlife to the buffer area in the territorial wing.

8. Proposed to shift few of the elephants from the Mathigod Elephant camp to Hebbala Elephant Camp at the earliest once the infrastructures are installed.

9. The team visited the Bheemanakatte dam site in order to oversee the work being taken up in the presence of the contractors for better storage of water for the animals which was not functional for a few years till date.

The team proposed that for the better management of forests rehabilitation of tribal’s residing inside the forest and for better empowerment of the tribal’s rehabilitation process need to be speeded up and suggested the forest measuring an area of 385 acres situated in Sulugodu/ Devanoor village under the wildlife division may be looked into as the area is a separate compartment in the wildlife division. It was agreed to visit the site at a later date to look into the proposal. The team interacted with members of the community along the visit sites and took note of their suggestions along with the suggestions of ACFO’s, RFO’s, watchers, Guards and Foresters of the divisions in order to have a firsthand report.

The team felt and agreed that as Thithimathi- Devarapura- Mayamudi panchayat divisions are on the main state highway and are part of both Territorial and Wildlife divisions of the KFD and where Human habitations including farmers, tribal’s, Plantation Labourers, school going children, general public apart from other migrant labourers and heavy flow of vehicular traffic along with permanent human habitations are high, addressing the issue of HEC mitigation is of utmost importance. The 3 Panchayats is composed of more than 25 villages and a permanent residential population of over 20,000 people. By taking the above agreed measures apart from the routine mitigation measures already implemented by the KFD, it will have far reaching results for better management of the HEC problem.

The team decided to implement the above decisions at the earliest and also to review the same from time to time.

Mr. C. Sherry Subbaiah who coordinated the program expressed his deep sense of gratitude and sincere thanks to Mr. Manoj Kumar- CCF Kodagu Division and Mr. Kantharaj- CCF (WL) Hunsur Division and Dr. Shankar- DCF- Virajpet Division and to all members of the team for their cooperation and interest shown in order to address the issue of HEC.

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