Wildlife & Biodiversity

Elephants fall prey to Odisha mineral rush

Three elephants were killed while crossing a national highway on August 22 when they were hit by trucks laden with iron ore

 
By Ashis Senapati
Last Updated: Thursday 22 August 2019
The 160 kilometre National Highway 20 where the elephants were run over, runs from Keonjhar to Paradip. Photo: Ashis Senapati

Three elephants were mowed down by two trucks while crossing a national highway cutting through forested north Odisha. The mineral-rich region has seen a spurt in mining-related activities as a deadline on mining leases approach.

The animals were hit by two trucks on the National Highway 20 near Balijodi village within Keonjhar district’s Ghatagaon forest range. 

“A herd of around 10 elephants were crossing the National Highway at 4 AM on August 22, when the mishap happened. A team of veterinary assistant surgeons conducted a post-mortem on the carcasses, which were buried after the procedure”, said Santosh Joshi, the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Keonjhar forest division.

At present, there are 16 iron mines operating in the state. In March 2020, their lease periods will expire. It is believed that iron ore production has been stepped up before the lapse of the lease period.

“Rampant mining in the forest is the main reason behind the destruction of elephant corridors and vital habitat essential for long ranging species like Indian elephants,” said Biswajit Mohanty the secretary of the Wildlife Society of Odisha.

In addition, mining and stone quarrying were also responsible for the drying up and siltation of several natural streams, waterfalls, and rivulet, he added. “Mining is also forcing elephants to use highways in Keonjhar and Jajpur districts to enter the nearby villages in search of food. As a result, their lives are now in danger,” he stated.

Mohanty said the large-scale air, water and noise pollution created by the mines in the region were evident even to laypeople.

“Rampant mining in these areas is an issue which needs immediate attention of the highest judiciary, government, media and environmentalists. It is unfortunate that despite persistent attempts to convince the authorities, the people have not got any relief from the government in the past,” he noted.

The 160-kilometres-long National Highway 20 from Keonjhar to the port town of Paradip in Jagatsinghpur now has the dubious distinction of spawning the state's longest traffic problem due to traffic gridlocks by around 4,000 iron ore-laden trucks for the transport of iron ore from Keonjhar to Paradip, added Mohanty.

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