The Assam government has decided to create nine elephant corridors in the eastern part of the state, one-and-a-half months after the death of 18 wild elephants in Nagaon district after being struck by a "massive lightning bolt", officials said on Thursday.
An official said that at a high-level meeting, attended by three ministers and several top officials, it was decided to create nine elephant corridors for Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNP & TR).
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The meeting, held at Janata Bhavan, the Assam government's civil secretariat in Dispur on Wednesday, decided to constitute a committee to make an on-the-spot verification of the areas for delineation of nine animal corridors in the UNESCO world heritage site — KNP & TR.
"The committee after making assessment will place its interim report after 15 days and the final report within another fortnight. The meeting discussed threadbare about the proposed nine identified elephant corridors as well as the creation of eco-sensitive zones in KNP & TR to provide safe passage to the pachyderms and to ward off man-elephant conflicts.
The new additional areas of the park together with reserved forests will come under a single integrated entity," the official said.
The meeting was attended by Environment and Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya, Veterinary and Animal Husbandry Minister Atul Bora, Health and Family Welfare Minister, Keshab Mahanta, Commissioner and Secretary, Environment and Forest Gyanendra Dev Tripathi, PCCF (Wildlife) Amit Sahai, Chief Wildlife Warden, M.K. Yadava.
An official statement said that the Supreme Court acting on an application by animal activist Rohit Choudhury, in April 2019, had "restrained" all mining activities along the southern boundary of KNP & TR and in the entire catchment area of rivers and streams and rivulets originating in Karbi Anglong hill ranges and flowing into the park.
"No new construction shall be permitted on private lands which form part of the nine identified animal corridors," the apex court order stated. The statement said that the Environment and Forest department had submitted an affidavit to the Supreme Court on the nine identified elephant corridors with geo coordinates.
The Supreme Court had asked the department to issue notification of the identified corridors. At least 18 wild elephants including calves were died on May 12 night in the mountainous Kandali Proposed Reserve Forest (PRF) in Nagaon district of central Assam after being struck by a "massive lightning bolt.
Chief Wildlife Warden, M.K. Yadava said that such cases are often reported of lightning striking animals and five elephants had died due to this in West Bengal recently, but the May 12 incident in Nagaon is huge, shocking and terrible.
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According to the latest census, India is home to 27,312 elephants and of them, Assam is home to an estimated 5,719, many of whom constantly come out of the forests in search of food. Set up in 1908, the KNP & TR is one of India's seven UNESCO world heritage sites and extends across Assam's Golaghat, Nagaon, Sonitpur, Biswanath and Karbi Anglong districts along the Arunachal Pradesh border.
It is home to more than 2,400 one-horned Indian rhinos, approximately two-thirds of the total world population. Besides rhinos, the KNP & TR has 121 tigers, 1,089 elephants and huge numbers of Asiatic buffalo, swamp deer, wild boar, hog deer, porcupine and other endangered animals and snakes. (IANS/AD)