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Cong opposes coal mining move in Dehing Patkai
Staff Reporter
 GUWAHATI, May 20 - Opposing the decision of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) to allow coal mining in the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve, former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw the decision.

 Gogoi stated that the Dehing Patkai is very rich in biodiversity and has various rare species of birds, butterflies, fish, animals, water bodies, etc.

“In addition, a vast area of this region falls under Jeypore Rainforest and also there has been (sic) an elephant corridor. This decision will not only destroy the biodiversity of Asiatic Hotspot which is the richest in the whole of Asia but also will change the ecological balance, lead to pollution, flood, erosion, etc. in the near future. Today the whole world is facing the problem of climate change and you are the champion for preserving ecological balance,” Gogoi stated in his letter to the Prime Minister.

He said that in 2003 the Government of Assam declared the region as Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve and subsequently in 2004 a part of the region was declared as Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary.

“In 2012 Coal India Ltd wanted permission for casting of coal and the Assam State Wildlife Board, of which I was the ex-officio Chairman, refused permission for casting of coal in this region,” said the former Chief Minister.

He alleged that illegal rat hole coal mining is going on at Dirak Likhajan under Dehing Patkai Rainforest with the connivance of local political leaders, police and the district administration.

Illegal mining is going on at Saleki under Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve. Daily hundreds of loaded trucks are carrying illegally mined coal from this region to other parts of the country, said Gogoi in his letter. He added that all people of Assam are today protesting against the recent decision of the NBWL, of which the Prime Minister himself in the Chairman.

“I, therefore, on behalf of the people of Assam request you to kindly withdraw the decision so that it (Dehing Patkai) will remain as Asiatic Biodiversity Hotspot and Elephant Reserve,” said the veteran Congress leader.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly Debabrata Saikia said it was unfortunate that the State government failed to oppose the decision.

He said that the Chief Wildlife Warden of Assam R Sukumar had recently submitted a report to the government urging that in order to protect the rich biodiversity of the area it was necessary to exercise caution while taking a decision on whether to open the 41.39 hectares of closed area of the Dehing Patkai Rainforest for mining activity.

“Reports are rife about a cartel carrying out illegal mining activity in the Dehing Patkai Rainforest under the patronage of the ruling regime. Now that the NBWL has taken this controversial decision in undue haste during the nationwide lockdown, fears have also naturally arisen that this illegal group will use the activities of Coal India Ltd as a smokescreen for illegal mining and transportation of coal. In view of the justified misgivings expressed by a section of conscious citizens as well as students’ organisations, the NBWL should reconsider the decision to open the Saleki elephant corridor for mining activity,” said Saikia.

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