Guwahati: The human-elephant conflict has heavily affected the residents inside the Narangi Military Station, causing heavy damage to properties and sometimes even loss of life.
The cantonment shares its boundary with the Amchang wildlife sanctuary. As a result, elephants from the forest step into army territory in search of food and many times enter residential complexes, creating a situation of terror for the locals.
“It becomes difficult to sleep at night when elephants come. Many of our quarters where we live have been damaged,” said one of the residents living inside the cantonment on the condition of anonymity.
The resident further added that due to lack of official help, many have had to install nails at doors and windows as deterrence against elephant onslaught.
“Earlier this year, a series of homes were damaged by an elephant herd. So we were asked to keep our doors open to limit further desecration of buildings. But the threat to our lives and personal belongings still exists,” the resident mentioned.
As per the dwellers, the only measure taken up by officials is to burst crackers and bring up a fire brigade siren to scare away the elephants.
Major General Jarken Gamlin, general officer commanding of the Narangi military station had sent a letter on July 3 addressing the chief secretary of Assam and the principal chief conservator about the issue.
In the letter, he requested state officials to either relocate the elephants, or the state government pays compensation for the losses incurred as part of the mayhem caused by the pachyderm.
“In the year 2002, to avoid damages due to elephant depredation, a project was undertaken by the Army authorities to install iron barricade to safeguard critical assets. However, these had to be dismantled in 2019 due to safety concerns for elephants raised by the Forest Deptt of Assam,” Maj Gen Gamlin stated in his letter.
A barrier was installed by the Army authorities at the military base to keep elephants away. The barrier had sharp and pointed iron spikes and as reported by Assam Tribune, it claimed the lives of at least two elephants in while injuring another animal in 2019.
After the state forest department voiced their reservations against such installations, officials at the military station had to remove the spiked barrier.
“We have undertaken prophylactic measures to include digging of anti elephants ditches, installation of elephant repellants, placing of recorded sound of bees, etc to ward off the elephants. However, these measures have not proven to be very effective,” Maj Gen Gamlin said in letter about the measures taken to control the elephant onrush but also specifies how it has not been of much help.
The Major General had also requested the state government to “relocate” the elephants or pay compensation for the losses incurred in such incidents.
“In case relocation of elephants is not a feasible proposition, the State may consider paying compensation for the losses being since regularisation of such losses, so frequently, are subject to scrutiny by the audit authorities,” mentioned the Major General in the letter.
However, the state forest department says the relocation cannot be the solution.
“This is an issue which has become a problem that the cantonment people are facing. But the suggestion given by the Major General that the elephants should be relocated is difficult. We are trying to see how best we can mitigate the problem so that the people in the cantonment doesn’t face the issue time and again,” said Amit Sahai, additional principal chief conservator of forest, Kamrup, Assam.