High-voltage fencing illegal but common in forests: Activists

Even wildlife experts have not noticed wild boars dying from electrocution in the forest areas. “Majority of them are elephants,” laments Sharavanan.
Representative Image
Representative Image

CHENNAI: Though the forest electrocution deaths are rampant in the State, it’s poorly recorded and reported. Besides critically endangered tigers and leopards, the list of animals that die due to electrocution includes wild boar, hare and peacock.

Industry sources in the business of electric fencing state that farmers use substandard electrical items to fence their land in reserve forests.

“The major reason for electrocution is that electricity flows directly to the fence to prevent animals from entering the field and damaging crops,” explains S Sharavanan, trustee, Wildlife and Nature Conservation Trust. “When animals are electrocuted, the electricity board imposes a penalty of Rs 2,500 on the farmer, and no other action is taken. This does not help. The government departments must create awareness to prevent such accidents.”

Pointing out to the lack of severity in punishment, he avers, “Except the electricity board, no other department has the power to remove the electrical fuse from farmers, as most of these connections are illegal but are installed with the connivance of EB officials.”

Even wildlife experts have not noticed wild boars dying from electrocution in the forest areas. “Majority of them are elephants,” laments Sharavanan.

Concurring with him is a forest department insider, who admits, “For many years, we were aware of the danger of electric fencing to wild animals in the forest. But only recently, we realised that it’s also a risk factor for humans too.”

Farmers use alternative current (AC) that does not give any indication when animals get electrical shock. “Direct current is more dangerous for both animals and humans as the fatality is immediate,” the source adds.

He explains the importance of using certified electrical products and cautions against the cheap, sub-standard Chinese electrical appliances used for fencing.

“As per the norms, the current supply value should not exceed 5 joules for electrical fencing. But 100 joules are given near the forest region to protect farmlands,” states an entrepreneur in the business of electric fencing business.

There is a failure in the system which enables farmers to set up electrical fencing with high voltage. “This leads to electrocution deaths of several elephants, which have been recorded in TN,” rues A Kumaraguru, conservation scientist, Biodiversity Conservation Foundation India. “The State has recorded many deaths of tuskers, mostly electrocuted in Coimbatore – Mettupalayam, Gudalur, and Naduvattam. Farmers are purposely increasing the voltage to electrocute these animals.”

However, farmers exceed the limit only because they use sub-standard products. “They buy electric products online that are not BIS-authorised. A lot of sellers on e-commerce sites print fraudulent standardised labels, and most of them are unregulated. Only BIS-certified products are ideal for electric fencing,” adds the entrepreneur.

The State government can take strict action against errant farmers, but it doesn’t happen. “For instance, the forest department can interrupt power supply to farmers responsible for electrocution deaths for at least 10 years,” opines Kumaraguru.

Efforts to contact Tangedco’s senior officials for their response proved futile. Officials of the forest department told DT Next that they would enhance perambulance and patrol in the areas where electric fences are installed.

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