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Public uproar on social media for Amazon of the East

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Suddenly Assam witnessed a public uprising in social media outlets for safeguarding a sanctuary from the rampant opencast mining for coal.

Campaigners argued that the Centre allowed the mining inside Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary. But soon a dedicated conservation group came out with a strong statement that the movement was not based on facts, as there was no mining inside the sanctuary, which was later authenticated by the State government in Dispur.

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Earlier, a good number of environmental enthusiasts, celebrities, social activists, journalists came out with the demand to preserve the sanctuary through their posts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

They tried to convince the people that the sanctuary is in danger because of the proposed mining as it would make a negative impact on the biodiversity, water & land resources, and even the ethnic communities living there for centuries.

The campaigners with various inputs asserted that the Union environment and forest ministry permitted coal mining in the sanctuary, whereas the process was related to a proposed reserved forest at Saleki under the designated Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve, which is not protected under the wildlife protection acts.

Dehing Patkai sanctuary is far away from Saleki reserved area, where coal mining was going on since 1884. Not only the local or national defenders of nature, including politicians, student leaders, non-government organization functionaries, etc but global bodies like the Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) also joined in the chorus.

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The Quezon City (Philippines) based global forum denounced New Delhi’s approval for large scale coal mining in rainforests and protected forest reserves of Assam. Dehing Patkai’s delicate ecosystem on the south bank of mighty Brahmaputra river has been declared as an elephant reserve. Lying under the Eastern Himalayas and the Indo-Burma global biodiversity hotspots, the rainforest is also known as Amazon of the East.

Campaigners argued that when Amazon forests in Brazil were burning, the world community wept, but now only a few people are reacting to Dehing Patkai’s fate.

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Not only Assam’s State bird (white-winged wood duck), State flower (foxtail orchid) and State tree (how long) are found in Dehing Patkai forest region, it is also a cultural hub with dozens of different ethnic groups traditionally living in coexistence with the forest and using its resources including indigenous Assamese communities like Tai Phake, Khamyang, Khampti, Singpho, Nocte, Ahom, Koibarta, Moran & Motok, Tea-tribes, Burmese & Nepali speaking people, etc. fringe area even though India emerges as the world’s fourth-largest coal producer, the forum called on the executive authorities, concerned companies with others for respecting the recognized process to exploit the natural resources.

It also appealed to everyone to stand up for defending the right to self-determination and rich cultural heritage of Tai, Tibeto-Burmese ethnic communities, Tea tribe people, etc with coal mining practices.

As everything was murky, Soumyadeep Datta, a dedicated environmental activist, came out with the strong revelation that there was no mining activity inside the sanctuary and it was completely safe. Dispur also clarified the matter to the people.

Ashoka fellow Datta, who leads conservation group Nature’s Beckon asserted that some groups were misleading the people with wrong information about the coal mining operations inside the sanctuary.

The campaign to save the sanctuary slowly drew the attention of the public and various motivating elements tried to extract benefits out of the situation.

Illegal miners, opposition party leaders, anti-BJP clouts, motivated media persons tried their best to manufacture an uprising. One can see many individuals, who made a failed attempt for a sustainable public uproar against CAA, came together to corner the government with an environmental issue.

Nature’s Beckon lately reiterated its old demand to declare 500 sqkm area of contiguous rainforests as a protected reserve forest. The conservation group, which has published several books like ‘Rainforests of Assam’, ‘Dihing Patkai Abhyaranya’, ‘Namchangor Antespur’ with thousands of awareness brochures, requested State chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal to include the remaining and adjoining area of contiguous rainforest under the domain of Dehing Patkai sanctuary.

Patriotic People’s Front Assam (PPFA), a forum of nationalists, endorsed the demand for expanding the area of Dehing Patkai sanctuary covering most of the forest covers under the elephant reserve.

Supporting the proposal of Soumyadeep Datta, PPFA claimed that the initiative would not only protect the entire rainforest area but also prevent motivated elements from extracting undue mileage over the issue.

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Nava Thakuria
Nava Thakuria
Nava Thakuria is a Guwahati based media activist, who is working for print media for 30 years now. He writes on various issues related to northeast India and also the media as a while.
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