Supreme Court directs removal of electric fences

Supreme Court directs removal of electric fences

It was a historic judgment by the Supreme Court on India’s elephants. While they play a key role as a “Keystone Species” in the forest ecosystem and are termed as the “National Heritage Animal of India” by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the plight of the Indian Elephant is known to all.

As more forest areas face fragmentation due to unscrupulous encroachment and other developmental activities, the pachyderms are forced to migrate and find themselves in human-dominated landscapes, leading to human-elephant conflict.

Cattle grazing, coffee and tea plantations, private tourist resorts, electric fences, expansion of agricultural fields, vehicular traffic especially during night hours and human settlements along elephant corridors pose a greater threat for the free movement of elephant herds that are in the habit of migrating across 350-500 sq km annually.

The private resorts mentioned in the SC judgment, pose a serious threat of fragmentation and destruction of habitats, loss of connectivity between habitats due to the construction of new buildings and erection of barbed and electric fences. Besides the local tour vehicle operators, the resort owners also indulge in operating night safaris, violating the provisions of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. The jeeps and trucks which are engaged in taking the tourists for watching the wildlife have also increased manifold in recent years.

The decade-long battle over illegal constructions, encroachments and other disturbances in the elephant corridor has to an end allowing a free walk for the jumbos in their regular path of migration. It also sets the pace for better, more effective laws for the protection of elephant corridors across India.

Environmentalists have welcomed the removing of the fences.

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