Chhattisgarh govt inadequate in addressing human-elephant conflict

Human casualties have increased eight times in state since 2005

Press release - October 7, 2014
October 7, 2014, Raipur: Human-elephant conflicts in Chhattisgarh have increased many folds, according to a report released by Greenpeace India. Yet, the state government seems more keen on mining in the forests than notifying the proposed Lemru Elephant Reserve or taking any concrete steps to manage the conflict despite warnings and protests.

Elephant population in Chhattisgarh has grown since the pachyderms started visiting the state's forests in late '80s due to rampant deforestation in Odisha and Jharkhand. This has resulted in an increase in human-elephant conflict causing damages to human life, animals and property. Human deaths due to elephant attacks have also increased eight times, to an average of 25 deaths a year since 2005.

The report 'Elephant in the Room' (1) studies the human-elephant conflicts in four thriving forest divisions of Chhattisgarh - South Sarguja, Katghora, Korba and Dharamjaigarh in which two coal fields, Hasdeo Arand and Mandraigarh, are located. The study takes an inclusive look at the current issues within these four forest divisions where coal mining is proposed.

According to the report, around 14 elephants have died due to electrocution in Chhattisgarh between 2005 and 2013. Human-elephant conflict has also caused 198 human deaths here in the same period. The state recorded 8,657 incidents of property damages and 99,152 incidents of crop damage between 2004 and 2014. Total compensation paid towards human-elephant conflict has amounted to Rs. 2,140.20 lakh during this period.

Incidentally, elephant presence was recorded in most of the coal blocks in the study area, where the government has identified sites for mining. These forest divisions already account for an average of more than 30% human death and crop damage incidents of the state. Hence, further diversion of forests here could lead to an increase in the existing human-elephant conflict.

Greenpeace Campaigner and the lead author of the report, Nandikesh Shivalingam, said, "Despite glaring evidence of elephant presence in these forest divisions and advice from expert bodies to protect Korba and Dharamjaigarh forests, the state has dropped the proposed Lemru elephant reserve, possibly due to mining interests. These forests are home not just to elephants but also leopards and sloth bears, and may be even tigers. It was ironical that the state dropped the Lemru reserve after obtaining all permissions from the Centre in 2007."

Pointing to this irony, Goldman Environment Prize winning activist Ramesh Agarwal, said,
"The state's proposal to confining the elephants within protected areas far away from these forests is clearly not the solution. Elephants have started residing and breeding in the forests of Chhattisgarh. The state should stop providing shallow solutions that do not address the real issue. This is costing the state a colossal loss of human and elephant lives, as well as wasting public money. Hence, there is a need for a comprehensive plan to save the wildlife and the people of the state."

Last month, a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court cancelled the licences of 214 coal blocks terming the allocations as illegal. Stating that the recent judgment was heartening to activists and their long fight to save the Indian forests, Mr. Shivalingam said, "Government has got yet another opportunity to correct the wrongs. We now urge the Centre and the state government to avoid auctioning within the forests and setup an independent committee to study the elephant movements in the state to manage the human-wildlife conflict more effectively."

For further information, please contact:
Nandikesh Shivalingam, Campaigner, Greenpeace India: 9686450785,
Rachel Pearlin, Campaigner, Greenpeace India: 9945199533,
Nitya Kaushik, Senior Media Officer, Greenpeace India: 9819902763,
Ishan Choudhary, Media Consultant, Greenpeace India: 9029306421,

(1) Greenpeace India report, October 2014
'Elephant in the Room: A case study on the human-elephant conflict within Hasdeo-Arnad and Mandraigarh coalfields in Chhattisgarh.' Available at: