Co-existence to lead the way | Daily News
Human-Elephant Conflict

Co-existence to lead the way

A community-based electric fence under construction.
A community-based electric fence under construction.

The countrywide implementation of the human–elephant co-existence approach has now become the main concept as recommended by the National Action Plan for the mitigation of HEC.

In this context the appropriate agencies for implementing the plan are the Divisional Secretaries and agriculture related institutions such as the Agrarian Development Department, Irrigation Department, Agriculture Department and the Mahaweli Authority, in addition to the Wildlife and Forest authorities.

For the last 60 years, the Wildlife Conservation Department has been deviating from this approach and has tried to confine elephants to protected areas.

It is learnt that after more than six decades, currently 70 percent of the elephant range is in areas with resident people and Sri Lanka has the highest level of HEC (human–elephant conflict) in the world.

The present human-elephant co-existence model is based on directly protecting people’s settlements, home gardens and cultivated zones, particularly paddy, through community-based electric fencing. There are two types of fencing such as permanent fences that protect settlements and seasonal fences that protect seasonal cultivations.

A big step towards realization of effective HEC mitigation has recently been taken with a number of donor-funded projects and the relevant agencies taking up the challenge. Among them are the Climate Smart Irrigated Agriculture Project (CSIAP) and the Ecosystem Services Conservation and management project (ESCAMP) funded by the World Bank.

Also the North West Canal Project (NWCP) and the upper Elahera Canal Project (UECP), both funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) under the Mahaweli water security investment programme have been approved by the Central Environment Authority (CEA) to implement the wildlife management plan which includes the construction of community-based permanent electric fences and community-based seasonal electric fences that would address the wildlife related issues created by implementing the projects.

It is learnt that under these donor-funded projects, 100 villages initially are to be protected with community-based electric fences in the project implementation area, especially in the Kurunegala and Anuradhapura districts. The alternative approach to HEC prevention has been developed by the Centre for Conservation and Research (CCR) and 30 community based permanent electric fences and 35 seasonal fences have been constructed under the auspices of the CCR in the Kurunegala, Anuradhapura Trincomalee and Hambantota districts.

A spokesman for the CCR told the Daily News that most recent permanent community-based fences protecting settlements are being constructed in Marakulama and Bandara Ulpotha in the Anuradhapura district and Sathsurugam Keligama and Galwewa in the Hambantota district and Kumbukwewa and Weliwala in the Kurunegala district.

The CCR spokesmen stated further that the new type of electric fences are constructed and maintained by communities who have been severely affected by the growing HEC for decades.

The community-based electric fences concept is meant for directly protecting people’s settlements and crops, addressing the root cause of the HEC which includes crop raiding by elephants, instead of trying to prevent such invasions by using ineffective and out-of-date confrontational methods.

The National Action Plan has strongly suggested to take to short-term, less expensive and more productive and successfully tested community-based village and paddy field protective electric fences, thus discouraging the linear electric fences which have proved a failure in the past.



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