Past 20 or so years residents of my village and the neighboring villages namely Peljorling, Balbotay, Namgaycholing, GhaNgatey, Norjangsa to name a few…. have suffered greatly from wild-elephants encroachment. My village and Peljorling notably has have borne the brunt of wild-elephant activities the most. Some have lost their lives too, many lost their properties in terms of hard-earned annual harvest and some lost their ancestral house.
Bad news! Things have not changed much after so many years. Worse! The damage caused by elephants has been only escalating. And this year has been notably the hardest hit year ever. My fellow villagers spent sleepless nights guarding their crops. If elephants destroy their crops both their sleep and labour is lost. And it’s a rare incident when elephants come and go without inflicting damages.
The Local government and the central Government both have done many things possible to benefit the locals. From solar electric fencing(It didn’t work) to crop insurance scheme( it became too unpopular because of the low encashment in case of any crop damage) and in helping to build up the QRT (Quick Response Team) from among the villagers to petrol during the nights so dwellers are alerted at the earliest about the approach of wild elephants.
I have a good news too! One must understand that the human wild elephant conflict is an old problem now and an old solution will not help us any longer. Old problems need newer solutions to tackle them efficiently.
Correct me if I am wrong. In this issue some Bureaucrats need to make use of their ‘joker’ card to play the game! I understand that the Local government, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forest and environmentalists are mandated to play their ‘special card’ on issues like this. Many people may not know this. When an endangered animal like the Asian elephants walk the face of the southern foothills they need to not only act righteously to protect the locals but also judiciously to preserve the nation’s wealth- the (wild) elephants.
Even aspiring Political Candidates also never take this issue quite seriously. Because firstly, it’s almost impossible for us to stop the mighty elephants from entering our fields…. Secondly, like I mentioned earlier, on conservation issues the presence of elephants along the southern belt of Bhutan is a source of great pride for the nation…and its equivalent to a pricy jewel especially for environmentalists and wild-elephant conservation and protection agencies both national and of international repute.
Since the day when elephants started destroying our crops…we have been trying to stop them and never thought of co-existence…We never did…but we must now…like they say what you cannot change, you must embrace it! We cannot change the course of the wild-elephants but local and central govt can change the way how they treat the affected people.
We must change our point of view! Of wild elephants and their activities. We must embrace their presence so we benefit better. The local and central government and the elite politicians need to also change the way they function towards such local issues. They must think rationally and pull their sleeves to do something concrete and more beneficial. Lip-service is an old tactics…it may not work anymore now.
I have few suggestions if you may like to have:
1. Provide subsidized ginger and chili seeds for farmers (of elephant affected areas) to grow and also assist them in marketing their produce. (Ginger and chili are some of the vegetables/crops which elephants don’t like to eat).
2. Provide training and facilities for Bee Honey Harvest to the locals. This item will be an alternative source of income.
3. Provide subsidized/or free jersey cow for each resident (of elephant affected areas) for dairy produce (we already have a dairy farm producing ice-cream and other dairy products. The extra milk will only help the dairy farm produce more or/ the local government can explore other alternatives too). It will be a good (safer because elephant don’t eat cows…) source of income for the affected residents.
4. Refer the title of this post. To ensure good health of the immediate affected locals and also school going children can attend school regularly. They need not also have to walk 2 kilometers to reach their present school at Peljorling. They can use the down time (50 mins to reach present school) to spend it for Self-study at home which will benefit them to excel in their academics.
Enough of this wild-elephant ‘business’ without any economic or social benefits being enjoyed by the immediate affected locals. What locals encounter is more losses than gains. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forest need to do more than just the supply of seeds and the arrangement of occasional yet grandiose visits of our Forest staff to witness crop damage with their loaded guns! Exercise some CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY to help us better. Oh Dear, the least the government of the day can do is to Pay us by constructing a hospital and a school in our community as a compensation payment for ‘zoo keeping’ the wild-elephants for last 20 years.