Assam government has decided to initiate steps to upgrade the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, home to a vast variety of flora and fauna, to a national park.
On July 6, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal directed top government officials to take necessary steps in this regard.
When the process completes, it will be the sixth national park in the state after Kaziranga, Dibru-Saikhowa, Orang, Manas and Nameri.
In order to expedite the process, Sonowal directed the forest department to prepare a draft notification and hold a public hearing to take the views of local dwellers residing around the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary.
Sonowal also instructed to prepare an 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.
The CM reiterated the state government’s commitment to preserve the national resources and environment of the state and highlighted Dehing Patkai’s role in maintaining forest cover in Assam. He also directed the forest department to take necessary action for upgrading Dehing Patkai into a national park in consultation with Union Environment and Forest Ministry.
Earlier, the Centre gave stage one forest clearance to Coal India Limited for coal mining in 57.20 hectares in Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve (DPER) in December 2019 with 28 conditions, including fines and action against responsible officers violating the Forest Conservation Act. The DPER is located within the periphery of the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary.
This triggered massive protests across the state. On June 4, the Gauhati High Court issued notices to the Centre, state, CIL and other stakeholders after filing a suo moto case against coal mining inside Dehing Patkai.
The sanctuary, with an area of 111.19 sq km, is located in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts and is famous for Assam Valley Tropical Wet Evergreen Forests bordering Arunachal Pradesh. The sanctuary is a part of the Dehing-Patkai Elephant Reserve having the World War II cemeteries nearby, along with the Stillwell Road and the oldest refinery of Asia in Digboi.
Dehing Patkai is considered as the last remaining Dipterocarp- dominated lowland rainforest harbouring a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna.
In 2018, the Assam Forest department and Wildlife Trust of India estimated about 150 individuals of White Winged Wood Duck in Assam overall, out of which 25 of them were found in Dehing Patkai alone, listed Endangered by IUCN Red list with its population showing a decreasing trend.
The decision has already been welcomed by the people. Popular musician Papon, who frequently reacts on wildlife and environment issues on social media, said that it is a correct way to safeguard the flora and fauna.
“It is indeed good news. Making #DehingPatkai a national park is the correct way to safeguard the flora, fauna & bring nature lovers, all this is very good for our state. I had a word with @sarbanandsonwal da yesterday requesting it and I am grateful he acted so promptly! Thankyou,” tweeted Papon after the decision.