Urgent appeal for Dehing Patkai wildlife sanctuary
A group of 305 conservationists and professionals from across the Northeast wrote to Prakash Javadekar, Union minister of environment, forest and climate change, expressing their concerns over the diversion of 98.59 hectares land of Saleki proposed reserve forest, which is a part of Dehing Patkai elephant reserve, for a coal-mining project in Upper Assam. There is a need to revise the process of assessment, they said.
One of them said, “The urgency with which many projects are given clearance raises serious doubts about whether due processes were followed.”
The National Board for Wildlife’s Standing Committee had on April 7, amid the nationwide lockdown, discussed a proposal for use of 98.59 hectares of land from the proposed reserve forest for a coal-mining project by North-Eastern Coal Field (NECF), a unit of the Coal India Ltd.
Saleki is a part of the Dehing Patkai elephant reserve, that includes the Dehing Patkai wildlife sanctuary covering 111.19 square km of rainforest and several reserve forests in Sivasagar, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts and lies under the Eastern Himalaya and the Indo-Burma global biodiversity hotspots.
The letter has suggested a “thorough and publicly accessible study is needed to understand why and to what extent this habitat has been shrinking,” said Udayan Borthakur, wildlife biologist and nature photographer, Aaranyak.
Research studies by Kashmira Kakati, one of the signatories, through camera-trapping reveal the presence of seven species of wild cats in the landscape, which is highest diversity of wild cats in the world. Another signatory, Narayan Sharma, department of environmental biology and wildlife sciences, Cotton University, said seven primate species found in DPER affirms that arboreal species require unfragmented patches of forest land.
According to Rituraj Phukan, secretary general, Green Guard Nature Organisation, said the current world situation is a manifestation of our dysfunctional relationship with nature. “We have been warned that depletion of wildlife habitats paved the way for emergence of viruses like HIV, Ebola and coronavirus. Yet, we want to destroy primary forest areas in Dehing Patkai and Dibang valley,” he said.
Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal reiterated in Dibrugarh, “No one should cast aspersions on state government’s sincerity to preserve the natural beauty, greenery and natural resources of the state. I have directed forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya to visit Dehing Patkai to take stock of the situation and Dispur would act based on the said report.”
Suklabaidya can’t visit Dehing Patkai at the moment due to inclement weather, his office informed.
Additional reporting by Avik Chakraborty in Dibrugarh