Army fed up with frequent elephant depredation

Elephant depredation at Narengi Cantonment in Assam

Fed up with frequent elephant depredation at its Narengi Cantonment in Guwahati in Assam, the Army has petitioned the Assam government asking it to either relocate the wild jumbos or compensate for the damages. The Army has sought the help of the Assam government to “relocate” wild elephants from the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary, which is situated on the outskirts of Guwahati and shares a 5-6 km boundary with the Narengi Military Station. Major General Jarken Gamlin, the General Officer Commanding of Headquarters 51 Sub Area, Narengi Cantonment, wrote that the elephants cause “substantial damage not only to infrastructure but also to critical logistic stores” at the station and the government should consider relocating the elephants which stray out of the adjoining Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary is estimated to be home to around 50 elephants and particularly three elephants have caused maximum damages. The Narangi military station is a logistic hub for the Northeast and a number of vital assets have been created for the storage of logistic essentials. These infrastructure are frequented by elephants and they are causing substantial damage not only to the infrastructure but also to critical logistic stores. In the last six months the frequency of attack has increased resulting in losses of around Rs 15 Lakh.

To avoid the damages due to elephant depredation and safeguard the critical assets, in 2002, the Army initiated a project to install iron barricades to keep elephants away from “critical assets”. However, in 2019, the rows of sharp iron spikes had to be removed due to safety concerns for elephants raised by the Forest Department. Two elephants suspected to have stepped on the spikes had died of septicemia in 2018-2019, while several others were injured. The depredation had increased since the removal of the barricades. There have been incidents where unsuspecting soldiers and the members of their families were attacked by the animal. The Major General has requested that the forest department of Assam may please be instructed to relocate these elephants, especially three elephants which caused maximum damage. In case relocation is not a feasible proposition, the State may consider paying compensation for the losses being incurred since regularisation of such losses so frequently are subject to scrutiny by the audit authority. The 78.64 sq km Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary has an estimated 40 elephants and they often stray out in search of food.