A project for the manufacture of handmade paper from elephant dung in north Bengal’s Cooch Behar forest division is at an advanced stage of completion, the required infrastructure is being put in place and the process of imparting training to the staff is underway.

It would be the first of its kind in the country, Raman Sukumar, Professor, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and an internationally acclaimed expert on elephants, told The Hindu on Thursday.

The project would not only solve the problem of waste disposal but would also provide alternative earning opportunities to villagers. The raw material would be collected from the waste of captive elephants in the sanctuary, M.C. Biswas, Divisional Forest Officer, Cooch Behar, said. Presently, there are 59 such elephants there.

A feasibility study for setting up a similar project in the vicinity of the Gorumara National Park is on for which technological know-how has been sought from World Wildlife Fund’s [WWF] offices in South Africa, WWF’s senior programme coordinator, Sikkim and north Bengal, Dipankar Ghosh added.

There are 13 captive elephants at Gorumara, according to Tapas Das, Divisional Forest Officer (Wildlife II), Jalpaiguri. “Disposal of the waste of these elephants was a major problem particularly as the dung is not decomposable,” Mr. Biswas said.

“On learning of projects taken up in Thailand and Japan, where elephant dung is being converted into pulp and manufacture of hand-made paper, we took up the matter with the authorities at the National Handmade Paper Institute, Jaipur, and got an encouraging response regarding the feasibility of such a project,” he said.