KALPETTA: A project to rehabilitate people living in the 110 settlements inside the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary has been hanging fire for more than two decades. The project introduced in 2003 is yet to complete its first phase.
People live in fear in the hundreds of jungle villages of Wayanad amid animal attacks on them and crops. Earlier it was only elephants that wreaked havoc in human habitats. But now the number of big cats is also rising. There were many incidents in which tigers attacked and killed human beings. At Noolppuzha range of WWS, a tiger had turned man-eater killing and devouring a man a few years back. Another tiger that regularly killed domestic animals and attacked humans was shot dead in 2012.
With around 2,500 families in 110 human settlements, the total human population of WWS is 10,604. Apart from WWS, there are two other forest divisions in Wayanad which also have more than one hundred human habitats. The number of habitats in zones adjacent to jungle zones is much higher.
“Though a few villages like Kottankara were partially rehabilitated, a major share still remains”, said Wayanad Prakrithi Samrakshana Samithy president N. Badusha. “There is no way for the forest department but to ensure speedy rehabilitation of the villagers which would reduce the human-animal conflict to a great extent”, he added. Though there were many agitations by villagers as well as Greens demanding rehabilitation and many packages were announced, most of them did not materialise due to shortage of funds”, he said.
“We are living in constant threat turning our life into an ordeal”, said K. Sadanand, living in Chettiyalathoor, a jungle village near Noolppuzha. “The school students are the most affected as most of them skip classes whenever there is an animal raid during night in the village”, he added. In total, 26 persons were killed in WWS during the last fifteen years.
The amount distributed as compensation for crop raids, death and injuries by animals also registered a steady increase. “In the three forest divisions of the district, about `15 crore has been spent for compensation during the last ten years”, said
Jose Kattikulam, an activist. In 2017-18 up to 800 applications for compensation were received at the WWS.