Saturday, 6 August 2011

Reduce man-animal conflict deaths: NGOs

COIMBATORE: Welcoming the 3 lakh compensation announced in the state government's budget for victims of man-animal conflict, NGOs called for the procedure in claiming the amount to be made easier and long-term steps to reduce the number of deaths.

Taking into account the severity of the conflict and the recent spurt in the number of deaths, especially in the forest fringes of western Tamil Nadu, the government announced in the budget on Thursday that it was doubling compensation from 1.5 lakh to 3 lakh. The 1 lakh special compensation awarded to victims of man-animal conflict from the chief minister's cell will also remain in place.

But activists cautioned that long-term measures to reduce the number of deaths should also be taken. "Any increase in compensation is welcome. However, the steps cannot remain cosmetic. The government has to come forward to make more structural investment. Such piece-meal appeasement is not enough. However, I would like to study all aspects of the announcement," said A Rangarajan of the Tamil Nadu Green Movement, an NGO.

He said that the government should also relocate pockets of private land along the elephant corridor and stop the "unimaginative implementation of the Coimbatore Master Plan", which only increased urbanisation. "A buffer zone between urban territory and forests should be created urgently," he said.

S Jayachandran, joint secretary, Tamil Nadu Green Movement said a "sizable amount" has been declared as compensation, which would help the kin of the victims. "A detailed study into the man-animal conflict, however, is yet to be done," he pointed out.

S Bharathidasan, secretary of Arulagam, another NGO, said many lacunae remain in the process of giving out the compensation amount. "A token sum of say 10,000 is given at first. Then the kin of the victims are made to run from pillar to post to claim the rest of the amount. They are also forced to go through various intermediaries. If people get the idea that the compensation will be given immediately, their outlook towards environmental issues will undergo a sea change," he said.

K Kalidas of Osai, an NGO working towards raising awareness on ecological issues, said that people's "aversion towards wildlife issue" will change if the compensation amount is increased. "Along with this, the government should also come forward to increase the amount given for crop loss because of elephant raids," he said.

K Mohandas of Save Coimbatore Wetlands, who has recently put out a paper on the man-animal conflict in the region, said that there was considerable red tape in the process of giving the compensation. "Applications have to be given to the village administrative officer and the forest ranger. Death certificate has to be produced. Officials keep delaying compensation expecting bribes. A single point clearance of compensation is needed," he said.

Forest officials welcomed the announcement but dismissed allegations that the government was side-stepping the long-term measures. "The announcement is along expected lines. As soon as this government came to power, the principal chief conservator of forests Gautam Dey and forest minister K T Pachimal had pushed for such a step," said D Arun, chief conservator of forests, Erode Circle.

No comments:

Post a Comment