All Assam Students’ Union protests coal mining in Dehing Patkai forest

The Dehing Patkai forest is also known as the Amazon of the East

Dehing Patkai forest

Activists of the Duliajan Unit of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) staged a protest at the Dehing Patkai wildlife sanctuary under the Digboi Forest Range in Tinsukia district on Thursday, demanding the withdrawal of the decision of coal mining in the elephant forest reserve immediately by the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL), The Telegraph reported.



The Dehing Patkai sanctuary is spread over an area of 111.19 sq. kms and is home to over 40 species of animals including elephants, several varieties of big cats, bears and the famous Assam Macaque, over 300 species of birds, more than 40 species of reptiles and 60 types of trees and over a 100 varieties of orchids.

Last month, the NBWL had permitted Coal India Ltd. to carry out coal extraction in 98.59 hectares of the reserve, triggering opposition by AASU apart from various other organizations and individuals.

The elephant reserve also known as the Amazon of the East, saw protestors holding banners and placards shouting slogans against the BJP government and the Assam state government.

The banners read: “Save Dehing Pataki, stop coal mining”, “withdraw the decision for coal mining in the sanctuary”, “Lend your hand at least, save the Amazon of the east”, “It is time to save Dehing Pataki before the global temperature soars high”.

AASU’s Duliajan unit president Bubul Talukdar, who took part in the protest, said extraction of coal in the sanctuary would pose a threat to the rich biodiversity of the state.

AASU’s Duliajan unit general secretary Dipankar Gogoi said: “The NBWL should withdraw its decision for permission of coal mining in the sanctuary to Coal India Ltd immediately.”

General Secretary, Lurinjyoti Gogoi, AASU had told The Telegraph, “On April 7, there was a meeting of the NBWL chaired by Union minister of environment, forest and climate change Prakash Javedkar. In the meeting North Eastern Coal Field, a unit of Coal India Ltd, was allowed for open cast mining in 98.59 hectares in Dehing Patkai elephant reserve. This was in addition to the 57.20 hectares in Dehing Patkai where the CIL had carried out coal mining between 2003 and 2019. This move for coal extraction in Dehing Patkai cannot be accepted.”

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, reported India Today.

Apart from this, the drilling and walkover work being carried out in the elephant corridor area by Oil India Limited (OIL) has also caused heavy disturbance in the area. Bijay Gogoi, President of Evergreen Foundation, NGO told NE Now, “The elephants of upper Dehing reserve under Jorajan area are facing problems due to the disturbances from OIL which has been carrying out some work in the area which has created problems for the elephants to cross the area. The man-elephant conflict in the area is the result of heavy-encroachment and deforestation in Dehing Patkai elephant resrve.”

Allegations and counter allegations

The Congress MP from Assam, Pradyut Bordoloi said, “Since this BJP government came to power in Assam in 2016, illegal coal mining increased many-fold and is patronised by the ruling politicians. Hundreds of coal-laden trucks come out of Dehing Patkai and many other areas of Upper Assam,” alleging that hundreds of rat-hole mines were operational there and that the police wasn’t taking any action despite complaints by various people, reported Outlook.

“Now the government wants to damage Dehing Patkai in an organised way through the CIL. If the final approval is given to the company for mining inside the forest, nobody will be able to save it,” he said adding that the Congress will hit the streets against such devastating steps once the lockdown is lifted.

However, last year the Sarbananda Sonowal indirectly accused Bordoloi of allowing the “coal syndicate” to be run there. Assam minister Chandra Mohan Patowary Monday said Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had written to the CBI around a year ago asking it to probe illegal trading of coal, known in the state as “coal syndicate”, but the agency was yet to respond to it.

Patowary, the cabinet minister of transport, industry and commerce had said that over 100 persons, including government officials, had been arrested in 2018-19 for their alleged involvement in the coal syndicate.

“In 2018-19, around 300 coal-laden trucks with no proper documents were seized by the police. Also, over 100 people have been arrested in coal syndicate cases. These people include senior government officials,” Patowary told News 18.

“Bordoloi was a minister and MLA for 15 years. All know that there were 150 illegal check gates, which were shut down as soon as Sarbananda Sonowal came to power. Probably under Bordoloi’s influence, coal syndicate in Margherita is going on,” the minister said.

However, while the mudslinging from various parties continues, it is more important to ensure that the campaign against deforestation and coal mining in the Dehing Patkai forest continues relentlessly.


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