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State Assembly should seek expert advice on eco-protection laws: Saikia
STAFF REPORTER
 GUWAHATI, June 30 - Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly Debabrata Saikia has suggested that the House should seek input from experts on environment protection laws and on mining and drilling activities to decide whether the existing laws should be amended or a new legislation framed to protect the long-term interests of the State.

Saikia has written to the Speaker of the Assembly, Hitendra Nath Goswami, in this regard.

In his letter, the senior Congress leader stated that the wrong policies of the Central and the State governments have endangered the environment and ecological balance of Assam and caused the recent disaster at Baghjan in Tinsukia district.

He mentioned that former Union Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Jairam Ramesh had recently stated in no uncertain terms, in a letter to the incumbent Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar, that the influence of “politically powerful power producers” was very evident in the decision to open up coal mining in ‘no go’ ecologically fragile and sensitive zones.

Saikia alleged that a report submitted by officials of the Shillong-based Regional Office of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on November 25, 2019, indicts Coal India Ltd and the Govt of Assam for acts of omission and commission pertaining to coal mining in the Dehing Patkai Biosphere Reserve.

He also referred to a letter written to Javadekar by Raman Sukumar, member of the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife, which allegedly states that during a meeting held on October 19, 2019, officials of CIL had provided wrong information regarding mining activity in the Dehing-Patkai area. Saikia mentioned that Sukumar had called for an enquiry into the matter.

In this context, Saikia said that any law or policy framed on the basis of false data can never be correct.

He accused the State government of flouting orders issued by the Supreme Court as well as the Gauhati High Court in connection with protection of the environment and wildlife in Assam.

He asked the Speaker to advise members of the Act Implementation Committee of the Assam Assembly, who are on a three-day visit to the Dehing-Patkai and Baghjan areas since June 28, to take a look at new construction activities near the National Highway in the middle of an elephant corridor in the Kaziranga National Park.

“This is in complete violation of the Supreme Court order dated December 11, 2018, which declared a 10 km ‘eco-sensitive zone’ pertaining to the Kaziranga National Park as well as the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary and also the apex court’s order dated February 12, 2019, which directed that no construction activity should be allowed even in private lands in the nine identified animal corridors of the Kaziranga National Park,” stated Saikia.

He added that based on a PIL filed by him, the Gauhati High Court had passed an order on October 21, 2019, and asked the State government to set up a ‘Mines and Minerals Task Force Battalion’ by the third week of January this year. “However, the State government has ignored that order as well,” he said.

Saikia requested the Speaker to ensure that no one is allowed to use Assam’s resources like “the fabled duck which laid golden eggs”.

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