National Action Plan for Human-Elephant Conflict Reduction Unveiled in Parliament Meeting
During a gathering of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainable Development in Parliament on 28.11.2023, the National Action Plan to mitigate human-elephant conflicts took center stage. Chaired by Hon. Ajith Mannapperuma, Member of Parliament, the committee saw the presentation of this vital plan by Dr. Sumit Pilapitiya and wildlife scientist Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando, who spearhead the committee responsible for its implementation.
The presentation highlighted alarming statistics: 433 wild elephants lost their lives in Sri Lanka during 2022. Officials emphasized that wild elephants now inhabit 62% of the country’s landmass, emphasizing the urgency of addressing human-elephant conflicts. Proposed solutions included the experimental construction of electric fences, such as community-led rural electric fences and temporary ones safeguarding paddy fields.
Emphasizing the need for public awareness programs, the Committee Chair stressed the importance of educating communities about elephant behavior and necessary behavioral changes. Wildlife and environmental organizations were urged to contribute programs tailored to these communities. These organizations emphasized their ability to provide effective awareness initiatives if the conflict areas were accurately identified.
Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Sajith Premadasa, stressed the necessity for a national land utilization plan to curb human-elephant conflicts. He underscored the importance of accurately identifying elephant-inhabited rural areas and the severity of conflict in certain divisional secretariats. Additionally, he clarified that an elephant census was not intended for exporting surplus elephants but for conservation purposes.
Several Committee Members, including Hon. Varuna Liyanage, Hon. Tilak Rajapaksa, Hon. Chandima Veerakkodi, and Hon. Chinthaka Amal Mayadunne, alongside officials from Wildlife Sri Lanka and activists from wildlife and environmental organizations, actively participated in the discussions.
The meeting showcased a unified effort by government officials, legislators, and wildlife experts to address the escalating human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka