Villagers to relocate to make way for jumbos
Ram Terang village in Assam's Karbi Anglong district, lies in the middle of a main elephant corridor through which several wild herds move between Kalapahar, Doigurung-Nambor Wildlife Sanctuary and Kaziranga National Park.
Its location had been blamed for a number of rampages in which elephants have destroyed homes and ruined crops.
"There are about 1,800 elephants in the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape making it the habitat of about eight per cent of India's elephants. Securing this corridor is not just about the right of passage for these elephants but also to relieve local people of losses caused due to conflicts," Wildlife Trust of India's Dr Bhaskar Choudhury said.
The process of convincing the villagers to relocate in mutual interest began about three years ago and the task was not an easy one.
"The villagers were very hesitant at first when we approached them with the idea of relocation as it involved a complete overhaul of their livelihoods, but eventually they understood the need and mutual benefits and agreed to shift," WTI's assistant manager Dilip Deori said.
Deori pointed out that relocating the villagers from the corridor was not their sole objective. The job would be completed when the villagers' dependence on forest to make a living would be reduced.
"So, we began to scour the nearby areas to purchase agricultural land for distribution among the relocated villagers," Deori said.
The 19 households which were shifted would be subsequently given additional land for agriculture to minimise their dependence on the resources available in the corridor.
Besides, this is a beautiful landscape and setting up of an ethnic Karbi village can attract tourism and provide additional income for people living in these areas, he said.
The WTI, as a part of its Karbi Anglong conservation project, recently signed an agreement with the Sar Kro village committee to purchase land in that village for relocation of the residents of Ram Terang and this was followed by the laying of a foundation stone for a model ethnic village.
The village will have traditional style houses reflecting the culture of the area and would also be equipped with basic facilities and necessities such as electricity, health care, education etc.
"We have reached this crucial stage because of the support provided to us by the local people of Ram Terang and Sar Kro villages, and once the villagers move out of the corridor, the elephants will find their right of way here and people will also benefit from reduced conflicts," WTI's Senior Director Dr N V K Ashraf said.
The local Karbi King Recho Haising Ronghang said that this was a step that would benefit both wildlife as well as people.
"There should be no barrier when it comes to wildlife conservation and we need to think of it as something that is necessary for human survival too," he said.
The project would be implemented by WTI to assist the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council and Assam Forest Department in wildlife conservation and will be supported by Elephant Family, IUCN–Netherlands, Japan Tiger and Elephant Fund.