NEC suspended coal mining near Assam Wildlife Sanctuary

Save Dehing Patkai campaign goes louder

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Guwahati: At a time when the campaign for saving the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary has been gathering momentum worldwide, the North Eastern Coalfields (NEC), a unit of Coal India Limited in Assam, has temporarily halted its operations in the state.

 An office order signed by NEC’s general manager based in eastern Assam’s Margherita said all mining operations were suspended from June 3.

However, the NEC added that the liquidation of present coal-stock will continue till existing coal stock is exhausted. “All necessary statutory formalities would be taken up with the statutory bodies concerned,” the order said.

Social media has been buzzing over the last couple of days in protest of the National Board for Wild Life’s (NBWL)’s nod for coal mining in Saleki area, which according to environmentalists is an integral part of the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve.

In April, the Standing Committee of the NBWL under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change recommended approval of the Coal India Limited’s (CIL) proposal for legalising the illegal mining at Dehing Patkai forest provided it fulfills 28 conditions.

The Centre’s move immediately attracted massive public criticism.

The Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary spreads across 111.42 sq km while the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve with 937 sq km area surrounds the sanctuary as its periphery across Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts.

Recently, the Gauhati High Court too while responding to several PILs seeking the court’s intervention in saving the forest has directed both the Centre and State governments to submit their replies.

Assam Congress also sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s immediate intervention in resolving the issue and reminded him of his duty to fulfill his promise of nature conservation.

Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) President Ripun Bora said in 1973, the Indian government gave a lease to the Coal India Limited in 1972, which had expired in 2003. He informed the then Vajpayee government had urged the then Congress-led Assam Government to extend the lease, but the latter refused it then.

Besides, student organizations like All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) and other civil society groups, environmentalists, musicians, actors, celebrities and people from all fields, have joined the protest against mining in the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary.

Modi on Friday, on the occasion of World Environment Day, called on everyone to reiterate the pledge to ‘preserve the rich biodiversity of our planet’.