Assam, which is a stronghold of the Asian elephants in India, has seen an increase in human elephant conflict incidents. This has caused both the species to suffer alike in the form of crop and property damage, loss of human lives and retaliatory killing of the elephants, which is undermining the conservation efforts to safeguard the species and human well- being.
This has prompted Aaranyak (www.aaranyak.org), which has been consistently working to mitigate human elephant conflict throughout Northeast India, to initiate a three-year long project in collaboration with the British Asian Trust and support from Darwin Initiative in Eastern Assam districts to enable human elephant coexistence. This ambitious project flagged off yesterday with an inception workshop, organised in Dibrugarh. The workshop was attended by officials from different government agencies, such as the Forest Department, Agriculture Department, local NGOs, Krishi Vigyan Kendra, Gyan Bani Radio station, RSETI, APART, Dibrugarh University faculty and students, Faculties of Digboi College, Dibru College, Gargaon College and local conservationists.
Across Assam, the Elephant Research and Conservation Division of Aaranyak, a Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation recognized by the Ministry of Science and Technology, has adopted multifaceted approaches to mitigate conflicts with elephants. Over the last few years, the organisation has established several solar-powered fences throughout Assam, which have proven extremely effective in enabling coexistence with these gentle giants.
During the workshop the participants from Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Sivasagar, Jorhat and Majuli actively took part and shared their thoughts and potential measures to resolve HEC. Dr Bibhuti Prasad Lahkar, a senior scientist with Aaranyak presented a talk on the current HEC scenario in the state and highlighted that how through educating local communities, supplementing livelihood, and providing mitigation tools, Aaranyak planned to enable coexistence. Dr Alolika Sinha, Aaranyak’s conservationist, conducted the workshop, while Dr. Dilip Chetry moderated the open discussion session. BAT’s Auro Shaswat highlighted how his organisation will work collaboratively with Aaranyak in this prospect. The team from Aaranyak consisting of Zakir Islam Borah, Abhijit Baruah, Rubul Tanti and Niranjan Bhuyan’s active participation made the workshop successful. The organisation looks forward to work with the multi stakeholders to achieve goals of promoting coexistence.