Elephants roaming along the bordering areas of Sipsu are a major cause of concern for the farmers as it discourages farming. The human-wildlife conflict in Sipsu, especially with elephants, has been going on for many years. Farmers are forced to leave their farmlands to resettle elsewhere.
Elephants cannot be killed or hunted down as they are a protected by law. According to the people in Sipsu, it is difficult to even chase them away as they are no longer startled by the sounds of loud metal banging or firecrackers.
Much of the farmland in Sipsu, although having a huge capacity to produce rice and vegetables, is in constant threat from elephants.
Dungpa Karma Rinchen said that there have been past cases of elephants raiding the harvest and damaging houses.
He said although the frequency of elephants in the region has decreased for unknown reasons, however, they cannot be sure if the elephants will not show up during the time of paddy harvest.
To tackle the situation, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF) has advised the people of Sipsu to dig trenches and block the entrance to the fields, but so far, nothing has actually been done.
According to a reliable source, the area was provided with 6.7 km of 2 lined electrical wires fencing with only one power supply machine (energizers) powered by solar panels to protect the areas from elephants.
During the time of the previous government, the same area was reinforced with 5 lines of electrical wires fences with 4 energizers. Both the attempts to prevent elephants from coming into the fields have failed.
The reason for the failure is due to unmanageable fences and lack of adequate power supply from the 4 energizers, as it is not sufficient to supply enough current to the 6.7 km of fencing. The electric jolt is too less to deter the elephants.
“The government has erected solar fencing which stretches outskirt of Hangay village till Jogimara near Jaldhaka River bordering Darjeeling district. But the fencing has not done much to prevent the intrusion of the wild elephants. The entire fencing runs with the power generated by two solar panels, which the community people think are not enough to chase away the beast,” said Gayatri Bhandari, from a village in Sipsu.
“It’s a life and death situation for folks here when elephants intrude our village at night to feed on anything they feel like eating. Crops are eaten and damaged almost every night and it goes without saying that a threat to the very life of the community people is imminent. At least 7 deaths have been recorded since 1995,” Gayatri Bhandari added.
One of the villagers, Garja Man Chhettri, said that two weeks ago about 3 elephants were seen on the banks of Sipsu river.
However, he pointed out that the elephant number is lesser this year than the last year.
“We cannot predict anything, but we, the villagers, have not utilized much of our farmlands for growing paddy because it might get sabotaged anyway,” he said.
According to experts, 1 km of electric fencing should have one energizer to have enough current supply, and at least 50 meters on both the sides of the fence should be cleared, as any plant touching the electric fence can provide an earthing and prevent the flow of current.
Currently, the trial works on electrical fencing have been initiated in villages, like Jugimara and Lower Peljorling. If successful, it will be placed in other villages as well.
National Council MP from theDzongkhag , MP Sangay Khandu, said that the actual discussion on how to solve the human-wildlife conflict has not been sorted out, but the government has assured to come up with new strategies. “Trench digging might take time, we are hopeful and it will and should be done,” he said.