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Tarun Gogoi seeks clear stand on Dehing Patkai mining

In a likely response, CM Sonowal has asked forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya to carry out a survey of the elephant reserve

By Rokibuz Zaman in Guwahati
  • Published 22.05.20, 2:59 AM
  • Updated 22.05.20, 2:59 AM
  • a min read
Tarun Gogoi Picture by UB Photos

Former chief minister Tarun Gogoi has asked Dispur to clear its position on the proposed move to carry out coal mining in Dehing Patkai elephant reserve in Upper Assam while dubbing chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal’s directive to forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya to visit the site as “drama”.

The National Board for Wildlife’s Standing Committee had on April 7 discussed a proposal for use of 98.59 hectares of land from the Saleki proposed reserve forest land for a coal mining project by North-Eastern Coal Field (NECF), a unit of Coal India Ltd.

Saleki is a part of the Dehing Patkai elephant reserve that includes the Dehing Patkai wildlife sanctuary covering 111.19 sq km of rainforest and several reserve forests in Sivasagar, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts. “Why has Dispur or state wildlife board given its nod? If they have not given their permission, how did the Centre give its nod? The chief minister should therefore explain the government's position before the public,” Gogoi said.

He also raised the issue of illegal coal trade in the region, “Unprecedented illegal rat-hole coal-mining is going on at Dirak Likhajan coal mining under Dehing Patkai with the connivance of local political leaders, police and district administration. Also, huge illegal mining is going on at Saleki under Dehing Patkai Elephant reserve,” he said.

Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Wednesday reacted to the mounting pressure to save the elephant reserve by asking forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya to carry out a survey. Purkayastha is likely to visit the site on Thursday, his office said. Sources also said the nod was not given during his tenure.

Kaliabor MP Gaurav Gogoi also voiced concern in a letter to environment, forest and climate change minister Prakash Javdekar on the recent decision, saying it “is extremely dangerous”.

All Assam Students’ Union, Congress leader Debabrata Saikia and the Ulfa (Independent) have also protested the proposed move.