The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Tamil Nadu government to crack down on encroachments along the elephant corridor in the state.
Directing the state government to ensure that no encroachments take place in the area earmarked for the movement of elephants, the Supreme Court ordered the TN government to crack down on 400 resorts that are in violation of the corridor territory.
The apex court’s order comes even as reports have emerged that elephant deaths in the state have increased. According to one report in the Times of India on Thursday, elephant deaths in the state had doubled from 61 in 2015-16 to 125 over the past one year.
The case relates to a long-drawn battle between conservationists and resorts owners at the confluence of the Western and Eastern Ghats in Tamil Nadu.
In April 2011, the Madras High Court had ordered the creation of an elephant corridor, asking resort owners in the area to hand over or vacate their lands falling within the corridor area to the district collector.
The notified elephant corridor is the traditional route that the pachyderms have traversed along for centuries. In Tamil Nadu, the route lies along over 7,500 hectares covering Gudalur, Oveli, Bokkapuram, Singara, Vazhaithottam, Singur and Anaikatti.
The Madras High Court also mandated that no new developmental activity was to take place in this area. However, private landowners promptly applied for and received a stay on the order from the Supreme Court in July of the same year.
Lawyer and conservationist Elephant G Rajendran, who appealed the case in the Supreme Court, had earlier told TNM, “The elephant’s abode is the forest where it has the food it needs. During the north-east monsoons, the elephants migrate from Bandipur in Karnataka to Silent Valley in Kerala and Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu. During the south-west monsoons, they reverse this journey. They travel along their traditional path, which was historically rich forest cover. However, private resorts choose to operate in exactly these kinds of places. So, the elephants have lost their path.”