Why Online Campaign to Save ‘Amazon of The East’ Is Here to Stay

An RTI revealed that the CIL had already been mining illegally since 2003 in 57 hectares of the newly approved area.

Updated05 Jun 2020, 03:27 PM IST
Environment
3 min read

Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas

An online campaign – #SaveDehingPatkai – has been gaining momentum with more and more people speaking up against coal mining in Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve, famously called ‘Amazon of the East’.

At the heart of the matter is a 17 April decision by the National Board of Wild Life (NBWL) to allow North-Eastern Coal Field of Coal India Limited (CIL) to do opencast mining in 98.59 hectares of Dehing Patkai, the tropical rainforest in Assam spread across 937 sq km.

Further, an RTI filed by environment activist Rohit Choudhury revealed that the CIL had already been mining illegally since 2003 in 57.2 hectares of the newly approved area.

In conversation with The Quint, Choudhury said, “It’s unfortunate that the Government of Assam has recommended the proposal in spite of knowing that the area is home to thick rain forests and has a rich biodiversity. These Reserve Forests of Digboi Forest Division, which were known once for their exceptional biodiversity, have been reduced to the source of illegal coal mines with depots and loading points everywhere.”

He also said that permission was first given by the State Board for Wildlife, and then by the Centre.

Following this, on Thursday, 4 June, the Gauhati High Court has issued notice to the Centre, the state government, CIL, and other stakeholders in this matter, as per an NDTV report. The court has taken suo motu case against coal mining in Dehing Patkai.

Dehing Patkai Reserve houses over 300 species of birds, over 60 types of trees, many elephants, and some endangered animals. Locals in the state have been speaking out against the destruction of rainforests for many years, but this is perhaps the first time that many from Assam, including students and artists, have been raising their voices in order to protect the biodiversity and their very own 'Amazon of the East'.

An Online Movement Launched by Students, Artists, Activists

Actor Adil Hussain, who has urged the government to revoke the permission for coal mining, told The Quint, “Climate crisis has proved the interdependencies of all species and ecosystems. It is needless to say that we must reeducate, rewire and update our software, that is, to say recondition ourselves to remove the blinders which are the curse of modern civilisation that made us self-centered and selfish, that made us believe that for our mostly physical comfort and security we are allowed to cut each other's throats.”

He added,

“And which threw us into the so-called rat race, gave us moral and even institutional legitimacy to extort, to hoard and acquire wealth by hook or by crook, resulting in catastrophic consequences and ultimately at the cost of our own survival on Mother Earth. Is it not time, for all of us, to look around and be perceptive enough to realise what Mother Nature can do to us.”

In addition to Adil, Randeep Hooda has also requested people to sign the online petition to save Dehing Patkai.

Assamese Artist & Musician Joi Barua told The Quint, “The biggest enemy to our rainforest, to our ecosystem is not mining, it is not people who have come here for trade and commerce... It is our ignorance. It is our own lack of awareness in these matters. We have been our enemy. Our lack of awareness has been the problem. Our ignorance about such amazing resources that we have has been a problem.”

An online petition on Change.org has received more than 80,000 signatures as of Friday, 5 June.

No ‘Final Clearance’ Given Says Assam Government, Locals Differ

After facing a lot of flak from students, actors, artists and activists, the Assam government at the end of May had issued a clarification, saying a final approval has not been given to CIL.

However, local photographers and activists claim that mining has been going on for many years.

(The Quint has written to CIL – and the article will be updated as and when they respond.)

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Published: 05 Jun 2020, 11:46 AM IST
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