ELECTROCUTION OF ANIMALS: A LEGISLATIVE ANALYSIS
Updated: Jul 7, 2021
Author: Sarakshie Sonawane, I year of BBA.,LL.B(Hons) from Symbiosis Law School, Pune.
Electrocution is death or injury due to an electric shock. With the increased human inhabitation into nature which is a land of both humans and animals, we see a rising number of the unfortunate death of animals due to electrocution. Such loss of fauna due to electrocution must be addressed with the proper implementation of statutes.
According to the NGO, Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), 1,300 wild animals have been electrocuted in India from 2010- 2020. The numbers included over 500 elephants, 220 flamingos, 150 leopards and 46 tigers among other animals across the country. Such negligence by the State Power Distribution companies cannot be ignored as it becomes an imperative environment issue within the sphere of man-animal conflict.
The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 prohibits the killing, poaching, trapping, poisoning, or harming of any wild animal or bird. The Draft Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, was put forward by the Wildlife and Forest ministry in 2010. The word “electrocuting” has been inserted into Section 2(16) b after the word “trapping”. This section of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) contains the definition of “hunting” but electrocution is not included in it. The draft bill includes adding the term ‘electrocution’ along with making it a punishable offence. It provides for imprisonment for a term less than five years which may also extend to seven years along with a fine which shall not be less than Rs. 25 lakhs.
Issues and Challenges
The Central Government had launched ‘Project Elephant’ in 1992, but the elephant reserves have not been brought under a protected area regime yet. A granular plan with topographic research to use aerial bunched (ABC) that are overhead powerlines or underground cables of 33 kilovolts and below should be implemented as per the guidelines of the CEA (Central Electricity Authority) and Rule 77 of Indian Electricity Rules, 1956. Although it was brought under the ambit of Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification 2006, we still face a consistent loss of fauna due to electrocution.
The National Green Tribunal has several times taken suo moto cognizance of the matter for remedial measures in order to protect wildlife. An action plan suggests a minimum clearance of 6.096 m of the electric lines and an inspection twice a year to check sagging. In Periyar Tiger Reserve of Kerala, power companies buried 5 km of 11kV power line that was in the way of elephants. Similarly, in Kutch, after 400 flamingos hit overhead electric cables in 2011, the lines were laid underground for 8 km. After the death of a 10-year-old elephant in Tamil Nadu, 2016, the forest conversation division of the state ministry has prepared guidelines that were sent to all state authorities. Inspection of transmission lines, erecting guard spikes on electric poles, and joint inspection before and after the monsoon to identify lopped trees and wires. It also mandated an inspection report of the accident to the Electrical Inspector of the concerned state and implementation of suitable measures as proposed in the report.
In 2017, an accident in Botswana, home to the largest African elephant population killed nine elephants due to power lines. In 2016, a bull was killed in Zimbabwe due to a low hanging wire. In the same year, an elephant died in Uganda due to a wire mesh fence in the transformer. Sri Lanka witnessed the death of thirty-seven elephants in 2018. Similarly, such accidents have been frequenting in Indonesia, Nepal, Malaysia, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Myanmar too. In the case of ‘Pradip Kumar v. Union of India, (2012 3 SCC 182)’, the Assam Government after an affidavit being filed has taken steps to create elephant protection zones and set up a Coordination Committee for Joint patrolling to lessen such incidents. ‘In the matter of the Protection of Forest Environment, Ecology, Wild Life etc.,
Forest Fire v. Union of India and Others (2016 SCC OnLine Utt 2073)’, in this case, the Ministry of Railways was directed to dig up trenches around electric poles with insulation in Rajaji National Park to avoid the electrocution of fauna.
Recommendations and Suggestions
Power Grid Corporation, Central Electricity Authority and wildlife experts suggest immediate action on sagging transmission lines and insulating existing transmission lines of State Electricity Boards, approved by the National Board for Wildlife. In the forest area, the power distribution companies shall preferably use aerial (ABC) or underground cable to avoid animal electrocution, according to the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEFCC) guidelines. Standard mitigation measures to be followed by the Wind Energy Generation Panel to mitigate the unnatural death of birds due to electrocution.
Strict legal action to be taken against power companies not adhering to such guidelines on power transmission. An external committee should be set up by the government to ensure regular checks and balances on the State Electricity Board or other forest reserve authorities. Such negligence on behalf of the authorities needs administrative action to prevent such happenings in the future.