Farmers across the State have lost crops to raiding wild elephants and boars
Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) Opposition has urged the government to enhance the compensation for victims of human-wildlife conflict.
Seeking the leave of the House to introduce an adjournment motion for an emergency debate on the issue on October 7, Congress legislator Sunny Joseph said a wild elephant, on September 26, stomped to death Justin, a resident of Peravoor.
The rubber tapper and his wife were going to the local church to attend Sunday morning mass when the wild elephant charged them. Justin’s wife was seriously injured in the attack and is on life support.
As per the State’s current compensation package, Justin’s family would receive not more than ₹10 lakh as ex-gratia indemnity for the breadwinner’s death. His wife would receive a mere ₹2 lakh if she survives the attack.
Farmers across the State have lost crops to raiding wild elephants and boars. The government’s compensation of ₹11,000 for a hectare of paddy lost to wild animals, or ₹330 for a rubber tree or ₹150 for a plantain barely sufficed to cover the farmer’s loss, he said.
Ideally, the government should set up a tribunal on the lines of the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal to gauge loss of life, injury and destruction of property sustained by victims of human-wildlife conflicts and decide an appropriate award.
Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan said acacia and eucalyptus plantations abutting forests drained the State’s fast-dwindling groundwater resources and offered no succour to wildlife. The government should replace the plantations with endemic species that provide feed wildlife and aid forest regeneration.
He also flagged the increasing sightings of peacocks and monkeys in human habitats. “Ancient tribal wisdom has it that bourgeoning peacock numbers portend forest degradation. The species thrive on seeds and could impede forest regeneration if their numbers abound,” he pointed out. Mr. Satheesan said wild monkeys menaced scores of human habitats in the State.
The Forest Department should create a special wing to mitigate human-wildlife conflict under the command of a Chief Conservator of Forest. The State should sufficiently train and equip the unit to handle wildlife emergencies.
Forest Minister A.K. Saseendran said the government would enhance the budgetary allocation for compensating victims of human-wildlife conflict.
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