Guwahati: Assam government has decided to upgrade the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary into a National Park. The development came following a recent controversy when the government was found to have allowed preliminary approval to Coal India to mine in the forest area.
On Monday, state’s chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal held a meeting with the officials of forest department and directed the officials to take necessary steps to upgrade the wildlife sanctuary.
“In order to expedite the process of upgrading Dehing Patkai into a national park, the Chief Minister directed the forest department to prepare a draft notification and hold public hearing to take the views of local dwellers residing around the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary,” said an official communiqué from the CM’s office.
Sonowal has also instructed to prepare action plan for preserving the adjoining areas of the wildlife sanctuary and include the opinion of the public in the adjoining areas in the draft action plan.
He directed the forest department to take necessary action for up-grading Dehing Patkai into a national park in consultation with Union Environment and Forest Ministry.
In May, North Eastern Coalfields, a unit of CIL, had accepted that mining was going in the area adjoining the forest since 2003 and claimed that it had applied for renewal of its lease in 2003, but the Assam government did not act upon this for a long time.
In December 2019, the Centre gave stage I forest clearance to the public sector undertaking (PSU) for 57.20 hectares with 28 conditions, including fines and action against responsible officers violating the Forest Conservation Act.
Subsequently, the state forest department slapped a penalty of Rs 43.24 crore on CIL in May for carrying out illegal mining activity inside the forest.
The Gauhati High Court too issued notices to the Centre, state, CIL and other stakeholders after filing a suo moto case against coal mining inside Dehing Patkai, the largest rainforest of Northeast.
The total number of national parks in Assam will increase to six after the up-gradation of Dehing Patkai into a national park. The Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary covers an area of 111.942 square kilometres.