Paonta Sahib: In a bid to minimise human-elephant conflict and provide a safe passage to the tuskers, Project Elephant is set to be introduced in the Paonta Sahib-Nahan belt of Sirmuar district. The elephant corridor from Rajaji National Park to Kalesar in Haryana is connected to the Simbalbara National Park in Paonta Sahib.
Paonta Sahib Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Aishwarya Raj said Project Elephant – rechristened as Project Tiger and Elephant – of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change is set to be introduced soon. The first instalment of funds – amounting to Rs 19.61 lakh – is being released by the ministry, the DFO added.
“A sum of Rs 87 lakh, covering Paonta and Nahan divisions, has been approved under the scheme. Preparatory work at the Majra and Girinagar forest ranges in the Paonta Sahib subdivision have begun. Awareness meetings with the locals are being held in order to educate them about elephants,” Raj said.
The move to create a safe zone for the elephants was necessitated after their movement was detected in the Majra and Girinagar ranges during the last two years. They come from Rajaji National Park in the neighbouring Uttarakhand. Their sudden presence in the area led to a human-elephant conflict, causing the death of two elephants at Paonta Sahib in 2022. A human death was also recorded in May 2023 at Nahan.
“In a bid to ascertain the route adopted by the elephant herd, they were tracked using GPS coordinates. It was found that in 2023, elephant herds stayed in the Paonta Sahib division and the Simbalwara National Park in its vicinity for the entire year,” added Raj.
A number of measures are being undertaken in the Nahan division under this project. Nahan DFO Saurabh Jakhar said, “Two ranges of the Nahan forest division (Nahan and Kolar) are potential conflict areas due to the migration of elephants from the forests in Uttarakhand. Elephants have damaged farmland in the villages there. To tackle this conflict, the local youth can be engaged in driving the tuskers back to the forests with the help of anti-depredation teams.”
A solar-powered fence is set to be built along the Bata Mandi area, which is the main entry point for the elephants coming from Uttarakhand. Camera traps and night vision devices are set to be installed there, and a mobile phone application to track elephant movement is also in the works.