Dehing Patkai, known as the Amazon of the East, and the only rainforest of Assam, has recently been approved by National Board for Wild Life (NBWL) for coal mining activities. Amidst the Covid-19 crisis, the decision taken by the NBWL is a matter of great concern for both local communities, as well as environmentalists and nature lovers.
Famous for its hoolock gibbons, varied species including Asian elephants, Bengal tigers, Chinese Pangolins, Himalayan Black bears, Himalayan squirrels, golden cats, marbled cats, barking deer, leopard cats, porcupines, 30 species of butterflies, 200 species of birds and many species of orchids currently thrive in the region.
A majority of people from the Northeast are against this decision, as it would be a great loss to the environment and biodiversity. Northeast India has been known for its large forest land because of its culture of tress, and a varied species of flora. But, over time, the situation has changed—as much of the forest-covered area is being used for industry-related activities.
Assam and rest of Northeast India have already been facing an increasing number of incidents of migration from forest land to agricultural field, in which animals including elephants and tigers damage crops. In many such cases, people are attacked by these animals and killed.
We know what happened when floods hit Assam in 2019. The same calamity might occur if coal mining starts in the region. It would cause great harm to animals in the Dehing Patkai reserved area. It’d almost be like turning elephants to coal. Where will all these animals go? It’s very unfair to nature lovers, environmental activists and NGOs.
The NBWL can intervene and review its decision to safeguard forest land. The pandemic has made it difficult to protest practically, although people have been signing petitions to review the decision, and making use of Twitter and Facebook to spread the word. College students have also been urging the Prime Minister, and Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, the Chief Minister of Assam, and the NBWL to not take any coal mining project in the region.