Quaint, picturesque locations, rich cultural diversity and ingenious music are few of the things Assam is known for. But, besides those, it is also known for its unique flora and fauna which can be found aplenty there. Assam currently houses 193 unique species of mammals and 950 unique bird species. Out of the 543 wildlife sanctuaries and 51 national parks in India, 18 and 5 respectively are located in Assam. Among them, Kaziranga National Park and Manas National Park have been recognized as UNESCO world heritage sites.

Although Assam boasts of such abundant biodiversity, we are failing monumentally in protecting it as has been observed in the meteoric rise of habitat destruction in recent times. This has resulted in possible extinction/endangerment of many species. The most recent case in this context being the Dehing Patkai case.

Truth be told, I was not even aware of the existence of Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve until it got embroiled in the controversy that has stirred up a storm within the state. Nevertheless, as reports and news articles of angry online protests started pouring in, I began to research about it to understand the issue at its core.

I write this today with the intent to reach as many people as possible, especially the ones who do not hail from Assam and are thus, unaware of the horrific atrocities that are being carried out in the state.

What is Dehing Patkai?

Dehing Patkai is an Elephant Reserve that spreads across 3 districts of Upper Assam – Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Sivasagar. A part of the reserve was declared as a wildlife sanctuary by the Government of Assam on 13th June, 2004. It also happens to be the largest stretch of tropical lowland rainforest of India and is known as the ‘Amazon of the East’.

The Issue

The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has approved a proposal by the Coal India Limited(CIL) to start mining activities at Saleki region of Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve. This move has been criticized on several grounds, and has fuelled protests within the state as environmentalists and students rally to oppose it. Point to be noted here is that even though CIL has been given the go-ahead only now, illegal mining has been rampant in the reserve since 2003. To make matters worse, Dehing Patkai has been grappling with several other problems that could aggravate existing environmental issues further.

Possible Ramifications

Among other things, it could destroy the natural habitat of the wide variety of animals and birds it is home to. Several environmentalists have opined that this could lead to man-elephant conflicts as the area is an entry route for elephants. Indiscriminate deforestation and habitat destruction of this kind could have far-reaching impact on the ecosystem.

What Can You Do?

Knowledge is power, so read about it. Educate yourself and others. Use #savedehingpatkai, #iamdehingpatkai on social media platforms and spread the word. You could also sign the online petition that has been initiated here.

Let us do our bit in conserving nature, and steer the movement in a direction that compells the Government to reverse its decision.

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