NECL, OIL promised no more mining, drilling activities in Assam's Jeypore forest: environmentalist

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Guwahati, Mar 16 (PTI) The North Eastern Coalfields Limited (NECL) and the Oil India Limited (OIL) have both said that there will be no more mining and drilling activities frespectively inside Jeypore reserve Forest in Assam to enable its inclusion in the proposed Dehing-Patkai National Park, according to environmentalist Soumyadeep Dutta.

Earlier governments in the state had given mining and drilling leases to both the organisations and 'we must thank Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal for taking the initiative to upgrade Dehing-Patkai to a national park from a wildlife sanctuary,' he said on Tuesday.

Dutta, the director of environmental organisation Nature's Beckon, alleged that certain senior government officials had earlier played a role in 'ruining the precious rain forests, unique to the area, and we have been working since long to protect and preserve it'.

Several organisations and local people have been urging both NECL and OIL to stop their mining and drilling activities in the Jeypore Reserve forest and 'I wrote to them in this regard', he said in a press conference.

In reply to his letter, NECL General Manager Jugal Borah said that steps have already been taken to 'surrender our leases of Dilli-Jeypore colliery so that it can be a part of Dehing-Patkai National Park in the larger interest of the state and protection of this highly bio-diverse area'.

The letter was made available to the media.

OIL Deputy General Manager (Corporate Communication) Tridiv Hazarika also wrote to Dutta saying that steps have been taken to ensure that there will be no drilling activity inside the Jeypore reserve forest.

'We are grateful to both NECL and OIL for taking these steps,' Dutta added.

The chief minister had directed the forest department in July last year to take steps for upgrading Dehing-Patkai to a national park following protests against coal mining inside the sanctuary.

The Sanctuary encompasses only 111.11 sq km but the stretch of rainforests include 500 sq km of the Joypur, Upper Dehing and Dirok reserved forests, spread over the two districts of Tinsukia and Dibrugarh and it is imperative that the entire stretch is included within the proposed National Park territory to save it from further destruction, he said.

The area is home to hoolock gibbon, elephant, slow loris, tiger, leopard, clouded leopard, golden cat, fishing cat, marble cat, sambar, hog deer, sloth bear, and several bird species including the endangered state bird, the white- winged wood duck. PTI DG NN NN