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SC seeks Centre's reply on plea for steps to prevent elephant deaths from electrocution

New Delhi, Jan 5 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to the Centre on a plea citing alarming increase in the unnatural death of elephants, due to electrocution.

The petitioners, environmental activist Prerna Singh Bindra and others, contended that they seek to bring to light the grim reality that wild elephants in India face on account of the alarming rise in the number of unnatural deaths, primarily due to electrocution.

The petition filed through advocate Abhikalpa Pratap Singh said: "The horrific scale of the problem has been recognised by expert bodies set up by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) itself, such as the Elephant Task Force's 2010 report 'Gajah', which identified the death of elephants in incidents of deliberate and accidental electrocution as one of the most common causes of elephant deaths in India".

A bench headed by Chief Justice N.V. Ramana and comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli sought a response from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on the plea.

The petition said the finding is supported by data tabled by the MoEF&CC before Parliament, which shows that 333 out of the 510 elephant deaths related to conflict with humans between 2014-15 and 2018-19 were caused by electrocution -- nearly two-thirds of all unnatural elephant deaths were caused by electrocution. "The petitioners most respectfully submit that the problem of elephant deaths due to electrocution need urgent intervention of this court, lest, the consequences may prove to be disastrous for the environment and may precipitate the extinction of the Asian elephant," the plea added.

The plea claimed: "Negligent and callous attitude of the authorities in not implementing statutory mandates and various guidelines and recommendations of their own expert bodies and committees, as well as orders passed by this court from time to time, has led to the continuing and increasing deaths of wild elephants due to electrocution."

The plea sought direction to the MoEF&CC to effectively implement the relevant recommendations of the 'Gajah' report of 2010.

The plea also sought direction to the government to begin with immediate effect the insulation of high voltage power transmission lines passing through protected areas (wildlife sanctuaries, national parks, community reserves and conservation reserves), elephant reserves, identified elephant corridors and known areas of elephant movement.

The petition argued that they apprehend the future of Asian elephant, an 'Endangered' species protected under Schedule I of the WildLife Protection Act, 1972 and declared the National Heritage Animal in 2010, seemed uncertain and bleak in the country. "More recent data submitted in the Lok Sabha by the MoEF&CC shows that these numbers have been steadily increasing -- from 56 electrocution deaths in 2016-17 to 81 deaths in 2018-19. It is further submitted that recently the MoEF in response to an RTI application has responded that from 2009 to 2020, in total 741 elephants have died due to electrocution", added the plea.