People in Joda and Bamebari forest ranges in Keonjhar have detected movement of 23 elephants in the area, it is learnt. The pachyderms often stray out of their habitats into human settlements. Sadly, rampant mining has damaged their corridors, hampering their movement in the area, say wildlife experts and environmentalists.

Reports said that there are 17 elephants in Baitarani reserve forest and six in Pidhapokhari forest under Joda range. While Sri Metallik has a mine near Khandabandh forest and Suna river, Tata Steel has its manganese mine at Pichhilaghat.

The lease holders carry out high decibel explosions to extract minerals and have installed high mast lights in the areas. Besides, regular mineral transportation has affected the movement of the animals. Such factors keep on disturbing the animals so much that they come out of the forest and move in the nearby areas, said sources in the forest department.

oda forester Peon Nayak said that elephants often come near these two mines. The lease holders have been given note of warnings about the presence of elephants and so, they have been asked not to carry out explosions and mining, and transportation when elephants are moving in the area, he added.

However, the companies allegedly pay no heed to the warnings.

Villagers of Khandabandh – Arnjum Munda, Sanatan Munda and Teru Nyak – alleged that the two companies carry out blasts with explosives while huge machines have been engaged for mining.

They said that ear-shattering sound from explosions and machines and lights have disturbed the animals.

The forest department has a clear-cut policy to protect elephant corridors, but mining has been damaging these corridors.

The forest department keeps quiet just after issuing warnings to the mining companies.

Wildlife activists and environmentalists demanded the department to take strict measures for protection of animals in the area.

A recent report pointed out that forest cover in Keonjhar and neighbouring Dhenkanal, Sundargarh and Deogarh districts have been shrinking, leading to habitat loss for elephants.

Elephant causalities in the mineral rich Keonjhar have not been stopped despite several measures.

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