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Save Dehing Patkai, Save Assam: The bigger picture

By Mokhjumi Ahmed
Men are selfish animals. Their selfishness does not die down even when they are faced with a crisis. When the coronavirus outbreak started, one of the discourses that riveted the attention of all was the torture on wildlife and the natural environment by human beings. In fact, one of the reasons for coronavirus was assumed to be the indiscriminate killing of wild animals for human consumption. The theory floated that the virus spread from a wet market in Wuhan of China where sea animals are butchered and sold.

The assumptions generated various reactions condemning the Chinese act of indiscriminate animal killing. Although the assumptions are not proved yet, people had the opinion that such cruelty towards animal should be banned. People by and large formed an opinion that natural environment and wild animals are to be protected. No more should there be rampant killing of them. This compassionate selves have generated a sense of hope for the future.

Also read: Dehing Patkai: What led to the end game?

But, there is a saying that ‘ wagging tail of a dog never straightens.’ Human nature is still the same. Whenever they get a chance to exploit nature for their own benefit, they do not lag behind. Every opportunity is grabbed with greed and avarice. Their never-ending desire hardly satiates. As a result, the natural environment and innocent wildlife has to bear the brunt for no fault of their own.

There is no wrong in mining coal or other natural resources. However, the question is at what cost. At the cost of the wildlife? If the extraction of natural resources destroys the abode of the wild fauna and flora, then we should stop and think ? The same is happening in Dihing and Patkai. Dihing-Patkai, a wildlife sanctuary is a home for many fauna and flora-some being endangered and critically endangered. Moreover, it is a designated Elephant corridor. Such circumstances require special protection for keeping its biodiversity.

However, the Government is hell bent on giving permission for undue mining activities in the heart of the ‘Amazon of the East.’ In a meeting last month, the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wild Life (NBWL) said that the CIL (Coal India Limited)would be given the final approval for coal mining in 57.20 hectares inside Dehing-Patkai forest.

This has generated reaction in the form of protest. Leading environmentalists, activists, teachers and students are protesting on social media with hashtag “Save Amazon of East from Coal Mafias” and “ I am Dehing Patkai” against the decision of the NBWL to recommend the CIL’s proposal for approval.

It is to be recorded here that a mining lease was given to CIL in 1973 for 30 years. After its expiry, CIL was supposed to apply for forest clearance but they applied in 2012. However, the mining continued till last year. Accordingly, the Assam Forest Department slapped a penalty of Rs 43.25 crores on the CIL for carrying out illegal mining for 16 years since 2003. The Forest Department has also filed an FIR against official responsible for the alleged illegal activity in around 73 hectares of land inside Dehing-Patkai Elephant Reserve Forest.

Now, the question arises: How can the NBWL give permission to the organisation which has failed to maintain upright behaviour and fined for illegal mining? If this was wrong then, it is wrong now. The NBWL, which runs under Union Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Change, must think over its decision once again and take into account its impact on the natural environment. The concept of sustainable development requires maintaining equilibrium between the impact of deforestation and regeneration. Rampant deforestation in the name of development would only add to worries of climate change, global warming, and myriads of novel problems. Tampering with nature is like tinkering with our future. When wildlife is safe in their natural habitat, human beings are safe. We all must stand together to save our ‘Amazon of the East.’ # Save Dehing-Patkai, Save Assam.

The author: Mokhjumi Ahmed

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