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21 Sep 2020, Edition - 1896, Monday

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Coimbatore

Why forest encroachers are blaming animals

Sathya N

People are encroaching surrounding areas of forests to build houses and for farming purposes sparking human-animal conflict. Government must bring in strict laws to preserve forest cover.

Coimbatore district is an abode to a variety of flora and fauna with a canopy of forests spread over 693.48 sq km. The Coimbatore forest division is a part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Surrounded by the Western Ghats on all sides, the forests of the district face a lot of problems. There are a lot of incidents in which animals are disturbed with counter claims that they disturb people.

Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Edappadi K. Palanisamy released the state’s forest policy in 2018. According to that, “Strict enforcement of forest laws shall be ensured for optimum forest protection thereby conserving ecosystem and genetic resources”. The government is keen on retaining and improvising the forests. But the human-animal tussle has been a long-standing issue in many parts of the state.

While the reserve forests areas are intact as per stipulations of the Tamil Nadu Forest Act of 1882, th outskirts of the forests are affected by encroachment. The borders of the forests and the riparian zones are utilised for agricultural purposes.

People nowadays like to live in a serene and pollution-free environment and so build houses in lands that are close to the forests. That may not directly come under the jurisdiction of the reserve forest. But these are indirect encroachments. But animals cannot understand borders. They roam around wherever there is greenery. These people living there, for their own safety, install electric fencing and then spark the human-animal conflict. Forest officials are also helpless as they are bound to take action only within the limits of the forest.

In Coimbatore, the lands close to the forests are used for cultivation of crops like banana and sugarcane which give a good yield. The harvest season would be around January when the forests are dry. When elephants go in search of water and food, they automatically venture into lands where there is greenery.

The only solution is to create awareness among people, especially young children. Awareness programmes in schools about the consequences of forest encroachment can go a long way in bringing about a change in the attitude. The government should enact strict laws against using lands near forests for agricultural purposes. Though this would affect the agro-based revenue, this is one of the best ways to preserve forest covers.

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