Seven elephants were electrocuted after coming in contact with a live wire in Odisha's Dhenkanal district Saturday, forest officials said.
A herd of 13 jumbos was passing through an area in the Sadar Forest Range when seven of them came in contact with an 11-KV power line early Saturday, Assistant Conservator of Forest (ACF) Jitendranath Das said.
The carcasses of seven pachyderms, including a tusker and five females, were spotted in the morning by people of Kamalanga village, who informed forest officials. The incident happened apparently because of sagging electric wire, the ACF said.
While three carcasses were lying on a road, four others were inside a canal. The incident took place when the herd was moving towards a canal road from a nearby paddy field.
Senior forest officials, including Divisional Forest Officer of Dhenkanal Sudarsan Patra, and the ACF rushed to the spot and arrangements were made for shifting the carcasses, an official said
Another official said the Forest department had told the Energy department to direct the agency concerned to ensure that the electric wire was at a height of 17-18 feet above the ground.
Blaming the power authorities for the tragedy, Forest minister Bijayshree Routray said the Central Electricity Supply Utility (CESU) had been warned about the matter long ago, but no corrective step was taken.
Non-rectification of sagging lines and non-cabling of transmission lines led to the tragedy, Routray and Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Sandeep Tripathi said.
Routray said an investigation into the incident is underway and necessary action would be taken against the guilty.
Energy Secretary Hemant Kumar Sharma said a three-member team, including the electrical inspector, is probing the incident and on the basis of their report, appropriate action would be taken.
The line acted as a temporary feeder for a railway construction site in the area where the incident took place, he said, adding that meetings between the Forest and the Energy departments are being held on a regular basis to ensure proper coordination.
The incident drew sharp criticism from the opposition parties, with both the Congress and the BJP accusing the state government of "utter negligence".
Senior BJP leader Rudra Narayan Pani hit out at the government and said both the Energy and Forest departments were "responsible" for the tragedy which claimed the lives of seven elephants.
Environmentalist and wildlife expert Biswajit Mohanty said there are 200 places in Dhenakanal district where high voltage electric wires are sagging at a low height and left unattended.
Despite repeated letters to the CESU by the Forest department and stakeholders, nothing tangible has been done till date, he alleged.