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22th February 2024 (11 Topics)

An undeclared war with nature


Wayanad, a district in Kerala, India, is currently grappling with a significant rise in human-wildlife conflict, particularly involving elephants. Recent tragic events, including fatal attacks on farmers and ecotourism guides, have prompted protests and strikes in the region.

Human-Wildlife Conflict in Wayanad:

  • Escalating Conflict: Wayanad is witnessing a surge in human-wildlife conflict, evidenced by recent tragic events including fatal attacks by elephants on farmers and ecotourism guides, sparking protests and strikes in Kerala.
  • Loss of Habitat Connectivity: A study report titled "Right of Passage: Elephant Corridors of India" identified a significant reduction in wildlife corridors over the past two decades, leading to increased conflict as wildlife ventures into human settlements due to habitat fragmentation.
  • Impact on Lives and Livelihoods: Over the past decade, Wayanad has recorded numerous human deaths and extensive crop and property damage due to wildlife incursions, highlighting the urgent need for mitigation measures to address the escalating conflict.

Environmental Degradation and its Impact:

  • Degradation of Natural Ecosystems: Clearing of forest lands for non-forest use, monoculture plantations, and quarrying activities have led to the destruction of natural ecosystems in Wayanad, resulting in diminished biodiversity and weakened ecological resilience.
  • Expanding Tourism Industry: Uncontrolled ecotourism, coupled with the expansion of tourism infrastructure towards forest edges and wildlife corridors, exacerbates habitat destruction and disrupts wildlife habitats, further intensifying human-wildlife conflict.
  • Lack of Conservation Efforts: Despite continuous appeals from scientists and activists, the government's response to revive habitat management and enforce conservation measures remains inadequate, contributing to the worsening environmental degradation and conflict.

Need for Immediate Action and Sustainable Solutions:

  • Government Response: Following recent incidents, the government has announced the formation of a high-level panel and rapid response teams to address human-wildlife conflict. However, effective coordination and proactive strategies from multiple departments are essential to tackle the complex challenges.
  • Enhanced Conservation Measures: Enforcing the Forest Conservation Act with stakeholder engagement and prioritizing habitat restoration are crucial steps to mitigate human-wildlife conflict and restore ecological balance in Wayanad.
  • Long-term Sustainability: Establishing a statutory body under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, implementing sustainable forest management practices, and promoting public awareness are essential for ensuring the long-term survival of both wildlife and communities in Wayanad.
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