The Korean Export Processing Zones (KEPZ) authorities have urged the deputy commissioner (DC) of Chattogram and the Forest Department to drive away elephants from the Deyang hill at Anwara upazila in the district.
But the forest department says there is no way of relocating the wild animals.
On 20 October, KEPZ Managing Director Md Shahjahan sent a letter to Chattogram DC Mominur Rahman in this regard. Copies of the letter have also been sent to the forest department, environment department, Chattogram Metropolitan police commissioner and upazila nirbahi officers of Karnaphuli and Anwara.
According to the letter, about 25,000 workers including foreign nationals work at KEPZ. But for the last three years, a herd of wild elephants has been raiding the EPZ area. In the last two-three months, three elephants have entered the EPZ area, causing damage to plants and various installations. In the last three years, 10 people from KEPZ and surrounding areas have been killed in elephant attacks. Moreover, a herd of wild elephants also caused losses worth Tk25 lakh.
The letter further states that the elephants are currently raiding the KEPZ area every night. If these elephants are not removed from the KEPZ area now, the international standard export processing zone will suffer further losses.
Mozammer Haque, legal and state officer of KEPZ, told The Business Standard: "The EPZ authorities have already sent several letters to the forest department in the last two years for them to take necessary measures for the safety of employees, but they did not take any action. A letter has also been given to the DC this month. The DC office has not responded yet."
Contacted, DC Mominur Rahman said, "The ministry of environment, forest and climate change is looking into the matter."
However, Mollah Rezaul Karim, a forest conservator of the Wildlife and Nature Conservation Area, told TBS: "The KEPZ authorities have asked the government to resolve the problem. They have proposed a possible solution, which is to remove the elephants from the area."
"But the forest department cannot think of removing or driving the elephants away in this way. We are now trying to determine what the problem is. First of all, we want to know whether the place where these elephants are roaming is a natural habitat for elephants or a corridor for elephant movement," he added.
"Elephants mainly move in the area of their habitat and through certain corridors. If in any way, they face an obstacle in the corridor, they get panicked. They then attack the crop fields and the hill dwellers. However, the forest department has made arrangements for the protection of life and property appointing guards," Rezaul said.
Zahid Hridoy, a resident of Anwara, said, "A part of the historic Deyang hill is inside the KEPZ. A herd of elephants has settled on this hill for several years. Elephants have been coming to the Deyang hill for a long time through hilly roads of different areas including Banshkhali, Satkania and Lohagara."
Dr Nasir Uddin, a wildlife researcher and also a member of IUCN Asian Elephant Specialist Group, said, "Elephant movement in the KEPZ area is nothing new. Herds of elephants come to this area every year in winter in search of food. It is a traditional corridor for elephants. There is no scope for removing the elephants from here."
"However, a solar-electric fence can be erected to protect the humans and EPZ property. This will not kill the elephant, but protect the EPZ from damage. In addition, an early warning system can be set up to protect the local villages, so that the villagers get the news before the elephants arrive," he added.