Scores of endangered Asian elephants are being electrocuted and killed by low hanging power lines each year. Poorly maintained and badly installed electrical wires have become elephant death traps.
It is estimated that up to 170 Asian elephants have been electrocuted to death in the state of Orissa, India in the last 10 years. These deaths could be easily prevented, and so we must keep pressuring power companies to abide by regulations to maintain their cabling, address low hanging wires and invest in stronger poles, especially along elephant routes.
Since 2012 we have been interacting with and lobbying the power distribution companies. Persistent pressure on the Odisha Government and several interactions with Reliance Discoms (a major power distribution company) are seeing results. Our actions resulted in a decision by the State’s Energy Department to commit Rs. 110 crores (US$ 16.8 million) for the strengthening and correction of electricity distribution lines in the state’s elephant districts.
Our team in the field reports that the progress has so far been satisfactory in the Reliance Discoms’ areas. Correction of sagging lines in the first phase has been completed and a further US$ 5.48 million has been committed so far for long-term solutions.
We still need to be vigilant
A different threat is now emerging, local farmers are illegally hooking up power lines to electric fences and ground traps to keep out crop-raiding wildlife. Our Informer Network is supporting the Forest Department to raise awareness about the illegal practice while at the same time working with farmers to encourage humane methods of keeping elephants away.