COPA recommends policy change
The Committee on Public Accounts (COPA) recommended changes to the current policy on the human-elephant conflict, which has aggravated over the years, with an increasing number of human and elephant deaths and property damage.
The relevant recommendations were made in the COPA report, which was recently presented by COPA chair Prof. Tissa Vitarana. As a result, COPA has advised the Department of Wildlife Conservation to abandon the old policy, which has so far failed, and to implement the policy formulated by Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando.
According to the report, the policy of constructing an electric fence and trapping elephants is a failure when in fact only innocent female elephants and baby elephants are being trapped by the said measure. The report also mentions that it has been revealed that male elephants, which are bigger in size, are responsible for causing harm to humans and crops.
The report states that the policy formulated by Dr. Fernando over seven years, with the experience received in Galigamuwa, entirely subsidised the conflict and that the cost has been kept to a minimum. Due to the human-elephant conflict, Sri Lanka has become a country with the highest number of elephant deaths in the world.
According to COPA, despite the fact that the average number of elephants killed per year in Sri Lanka, due to human-elephant conflict, is 272, a total of 407 elephants have died in 2019 alone. It was also revealed that, despite the fact that the average number of human deaths due to humanelephant conflict is 85 per year, 122 people have died in 2019.
As a result, the Committee emphasised the importance of taking action on this issue right away. Prof. Vitharana, who recently presented the report to Parliament, stated that while the government had allocated large sums of money from the annual budget to prevent the human-elephant conflict, it had only increased rather than decreased. As a result, the old policy, which is costing the Government a lot of money, should be changed right away, according to the COPA chair.
The report stated that it is the Wildlife Department’s responsibility to develop an action plan to reduce human-elephant conflict and the importance of obtaining the consent of the Mahaweli Authority and the Forest Department when acquiring such lands for the construction of elephant reserves.
Furthermore, the COPA emphasise the importance of the joint assistance of the Sri Lanka Army, Navy, Air Force, Civil Defence Department, Agrarian Organisations and the villagers as essential in the construction and maintenance of strategies such as elephant fences and elephant trenches used to reduce humanelephant conflict.