The students of Gauhati University initiated an online campaign to stop coal mining in the ecologically sensitive Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, Assam.
The campaign is organized by Eco Club and GU last week. It gained momentum over May 16 and 17, when the varsity and its associated colleges took #SaveDehingPatkai to social media.
The campaign aims to spread awareness about the future of the wildlife sanctuary through “social media movement.” The campaign has now gained the support of celebrities like Papon and environmentalists like Rohit Choudhury and various NGOs.
On April 17, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) recommended a coal-mining project in the Saleki reserve forest which is a part of the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve. The decision was announced during a standing committee meeting headed by Prakash Javedkar, the Chairman of NBWL and the Minister of Forest, Environment and Climate Change of India.
Postgraduate Students’ Union (PGSU) of Gauhati University said in a statement that, “Illegal mining has already damaged the rainforest. Recently, NBWL has permitted Coal India Limited to start extraction in 98.59 hectares of land at Dehing Patkai in Saleki, an Elephant Reserve area. It will destroy the Sanctuary,”.
The Dehing Patkai elephant reserve is part of the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary that is spread across 111 sq. km in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts of Assam. The sanctuary is also known as ‘Amazon of the East’ and is India’s largest tropical lowland rainforest. These protected areas house many endangered species.
The NBWL permits that 98.59 hectares of forest land can be used by the North-Eastern Coal Field (NECF), a unit of Coal India Limited. Though, a site inspection report by the Union environment ministry’s Shillong office in November last year had said the NECF has already been mining for coal in the patch of land for decades.
Environment activist Rohit Choudhury stated, “NECF started its mining operations in the area in 1973 with a lease for 30 years.” The company continued to mine even after the lease expired in 2003.
Sentinel Assam reported that ‘The protestors are urging the Prime Minister of India, the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India, the Chief Minister of Assam and the NBWL to stop any current and future coal mining project in Saleki and the whole of Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve, stating that legal and illegal coal extraction is having and will have catastrophic consequences for the whole ecosystem of the region’.
The report indicates that the Dehing Patkai region is already threatened by high polluting industries, such as coal mines, oil refineries, and gas drilling, that adversely affect the biodiversity of the region.