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Online campaign urges Centre to reverse course on coal mining in Assam’s Dehing Patkai

National Board for Wildlife recently approved a coal mining project in Saleki area of the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam.

A mid the ongoing nationwide lockdown, stakeholders in Assam have shrilled their protests both on the streets and on social media platforms against the Centre’s decision to permit mining of coal in the state’s Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary.

From All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) to India’s Forest Man Jadav Payeng and from actor Adil Hussain to singer Angarag Papon Mahanta, wildlife activists and environmentalists have criticized the National Board for Wildlife’s (NBWL) decision to allow mining of coal in the Dehing Patkai rainforest.

Known as the Amazon of the East, Dehing Patkai rainforest is home to over 40 species of fauna including elephants, several varieties of big cats, bears and the famous Assam Macaque, over 300 species of birds, over 40 species of reptiles, over 60 types of trees and over 100 varieties of orchids.

The Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary is spread across an area of 111.19 sq km that falls under Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts. The NBWL recently approved a coal mining project in Saleki area of the wildlife sanctuary.

Members of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) and All Assam Matak Youth Students’ Union had staged protests in Tinsukia district against the Centre’s decision by forming a human chain. The protesters have threatened to intensify their protests if the decision is not reversed.

“We are strongly opposed to the Centre’s decision. We will send a memorandum to the Prime Minister of India. If the government will not withdraw their decision, we will intensify our protests across the state,” a leader of the All Assam Matak Youth Students’ Union said.

On the other hand, Padma Shri Jadav Payeng also known as the Forest Man of India has appealed to the Union government to reconsider its decision. “Coal mining should be stopped to protect our climate and environment. Coal mining in the Dehing Patkai rainforest will severely impact our climate, environment of Assam and other parts of North Eastern region. I appeal to the government to change this decision,” Jadav Payeng said.

People of Assam have also launched online protests against the Centre’s decision under the banner of “Save Dehing Patkai” and “Save Amazon of East” among others.

Assamese Bollywood singer Angarag Papon Mahanta tweeted, “The world cried when there was a fire in the Amazon! DihingPatkai in Assam is India’s biggest rain forest. We cannot take any further risk with nature in the midst of what we are already going through!”

“Known as Amazon of the East DehingPatkai Forest, home to Elephants and Numerous FloraFaona up for Coal Mining, if reports are to be true. It does not need rocket science to realise that we are on the verge of a global Environmental Catastropy. 

In the face of resistance against proposed mining of coal in Dehing Patkai, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Wednesday directed state Forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya to visit the sanctuary and take stock of the ground situation there.

In an official statement, CM Sonowal said the Assam government is committed to protecting the environment and biodiversity of the state and will not compromise with its stand in the name of development initiatives. The government always underscored the need to sustain development in sync with its ecology, added the statement.

The Assam Chief Minister also said that Minister Parimal Suklabaidya will conduct a field study of the present condition of the wildlife sanctuary and apprise the government for the needful during his visit.

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