The people of Eastern Chhattisgarh are caught in up a chaos they have no wish to be a part of. Their homes & fields are regularly damaged by marauding elephants. In this video, Community Correspondent Savita Rath attempts to get to the bottom of this brouhaha.
Hailing from the mineral rich Raigarh, Savita has seen her homeland ruthlessly blasted to bits for the purpose of coal mining. Over the years, she has taken it upon herself to educate her people about the fragile ecology of their land, and the truth about how the very resources they depend on are slowly but surely being excavated, transported and burnt away.
“Our land lies in the cradle of one of India’s thickest forested regions. There are the jungles of Jharkhand, the western corner of Odisha & our own forests, here in Raigarh. Our people have lived in these jungles for decades, and up to 15-20 years ago, they lived in peace & harmony with the forests & its inhabitants.”
However, the escalation of mining leases being granted has had the most severely shocking effects on the people. While signing and granting multiple MoUs require environmental assessments to be made, the results of these assessments and surveys claim that no wild animals exist in these regions, making access for mining in these locations an easy task. Yet, at the same time, the very same government is spending lakhs of tax-payers money on the ‘conservation’ of these apparently non-existent animals. Perturbed & confused, Savita started making discreet inquiries, and found that most villages have been subjected to this pachyderm induced pain only after the rampant destruction of forests began. Acres of forests have been chopped to make way for smoke spewing factories & coal-dust choked mines, noxious fumes engulfing all living creatures in the vicinity. These destructive development measures adopted by the government has resulted in the displacement of millions of people & animals, diverted millions of tonnes of water for industrial use, slowly but surely converting huge tracts of pristine forests into wasteland.
Elephant raids in rural India have, in the last decade, become commonplace because of badly planned canals, highways and railroads which serve the singular purpose of facilitating industries. Both people & animals have been left bewildered by the destruction caused by this ‘development’, and often end up seeking sanctuary in the same spaces, escalating chances of conflict. The once harmonious habitats have now become horror zones, where people have to regular flee their homes & fields once they hear the huge animals have moved closer.
While short-term measures to keep away animals from human habitation range from anything between brandishing fire-lit torches to beating tin drums, these measures often endanger the populace. Also, as per the Wildlife Protection Act, any persons or groups of people collectively attempting to chase away these behemoths are often jailed for a term of life imprisonment. Very often, villagers’ actions to save their families & fields are misunderstood and many have been jailed. Savita & her people hope for a longer, more peaceful solution to this situation, via which all inhabitants of the forests can return to living in peace & harmony as they were accustomed to.
“We filed a case with the National Green Tribunal on the 16th of April this year. We’re hoping that they will acknowledge our plea to stop issuing fresh licenses to industries & corporations. The existing ones are causing enough damage. With this video, I hope that more people will acknowledge that this escalating human-animal ‘conflict’ is not our fight with our forests but against the elements which forcefully evict us, humans and animals alike, from our natural habitats.”
Call to Action: To protect the wildlife in Chhattisgarh, ask the National Green Tribunal and Ministry of Environment and Forests to stop issuing licenses to industries & corporations in eco-sensitive areas like Tamnar Block.
You can call or email Honourable Mr. Justice Swatanter Kumar, Chairperson, National Green Tribunal
Tel: 011-26175950; Fax: 011-26170502
Article by: Radhika