Edgy elephants make life miserable for villagers

April 8th, 2008 - 11:18 am ICT by admin  

Gudalur (Tamil Nadu), April 8 (IANS) Herds of elephants straying into human settlements bordering thick forests have destroyed coffee plantations and water pipes here in Tamil Nadu. Gudalur, situated along the border with Karnataka some 650 km southwest of Chennai, is famous for its high value coffee beans, which are mostly exported.

Expanding human habitations on both the sides of the border have displaced the animals from their habitation in the forests that are being developed into newer plantations virtually every day.

“For more than three months we have been living in fear as the elephants have laid waste plantations worth millions of rupees and endangered our livelihood,” complained K. Nanjiah, a worker.

“Over 160 houses have been reduced to rubble. For several days we had to be without water because the elephants destroyed the water pipes. We are afraid to move out of our homes even for medical emergencies,” the 52-year-old said.

Several rows of ruined dwelling units are mute witnesses of the animal ire.

“Yes, wildlife has rights. But isn’t it the forest officials’ duty to lead these beasts back deeper into the forests so that all of us can peacefully coexist?” asked B. Nagamma, 33, another villager.

“The coffee produced here earns huge sums of money. Naturally, moneybags are seeing this as an avenue to increase profits. But this also disturbs the denizens of the forest that have an equal right to live here. The only downside of it all is that nobody can predict the animals’ behaviour when they are angry,” said a forest official on condition of anonymity.

Called the Nilgiris (Blue Mountains), this section of the chain of mountains that stretch from Maharashtra to the southern tip of the subcontinent abounds in endangered wildlife.

The best-known town in the neighbourhood is Uthagamandalam or Ooty - a hill station.

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