Coal mining in Dehing Patkai: Sonowal sends forest minister to survey the wildlife sanctuary

Guwahati, May 20 (PTI) Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Wednesday ordered Environment and Forests Minister Parimal Suklabaidya to visit Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary to conduct a field survey in the backdrop of a huge outrage against coal mining inside the forest.

Sonowal said the government is committed to protect the environment and believes in sustained development with ecology, an official statement said.

In view of the public opposition being reported in the media to the purported attempt of coal mining in Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, Sonowal directed Suklabaidya to visit the sanctuary for taking stock of the situation on the ground. He also said the environment and forests minister will conduct a field study of the situation and apprise the government, the statement said.

The chief minister said his government is committed to protect the environment and biodiversity of the state and will not compromise with its stand in the name development initiatives.

'The government always underscored the need to sustain development in sync with its ecology,' it added.

Opposition Congress, All Assam Students' Union, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, environmentalists, activists, teachers and students are protesting on social media with hashtag 'Save Amazon Of East from Coal Mafias' and 'I am Dehing Patkai' and warned of strong protests if coal mining is allowed.

An online petition at has already attracted nearly 60,000 signatures against coal mining inside Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve.

Though it was mining since 2003, the Coal India Ltd sought clearance in 2012 only, but it was rejected then. It applied again in 2019 for clearance of 98.59 hectares, out of which CIL was carrying out mining activities in 73 hectares.

The Centre gave the Stage-I clearance to the PSU major for 57.20 hectares in December 2019 with 28 conditions, including fines and action against responsible officers violating the Forest Conservation Act.

Accordingly, the Assam Forest Department last month slapped a penalty of Rs 43.25 crore on CIL for carrying out illegal mining activity inside the forest for 16 years since 2003.

In its meeting in April 2020, the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wild Life under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change recommended the CIL's proposal for legalising the mining for approval provided it fulfils the 28 conditions. PTI TR ABH ABH