Guwahati, May 22 (PTI) Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Friday said no one should doubt the government's intention to protect nature even as protests continued over preliminary permission given for coal mining inside Dehing Patkai forest.
After visiting some quarantine centres in Dibrugarh, Sonowal told reporters that he has already directed Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya to visit the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, known as the Amazon of East, and submit a ground report.
'We are committed to protect Assam's environment and biodiversity. No one should cast aspersions on state government's sincerity to preserve the natural beauty, greenery and natural resources of the state,' he said.
Suklabaidya has been directed to visit the sanctuary to take stock of the actual situation and the state government will take further steps in this regard based on the Forest minister's report, he added.
On Friday, opposition Congress tweeted against the Centre's decision to give stage I permission to Coal India Ltd for coal mining inside the forest with the hashtag 'SaveDehingPatkai'.
'Along with PSUs, BJP has also put our rich natural resources on sale. #SaveDehingPatkai,' All India Congress Committee tweeted on Friday.
'BJP only cares about the corporates, not for its people or the environment... BJP puts 'Amazon of The East' In Danger,' it added.
In a series of tweets, the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) alleged that since the BJP government came to power in Assam in 2016, illegal coal mining increased many- fold and is patronised by the ruling politicians.
'Taking advantage of #lockdown #BJP Govt's decision to allow #CoalIndia Limited for extraction of coal from 98.59 hectare of land at Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve in Assam, it exposes BJPs double standard of advocating for protection of Environment & Biodiversity,' APCC President and Rajya Sabha MP Ripun Bora tweeted.
All Assam Students' Union, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, environmentalists, activists, teachers and students are protesting on social media with the 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 www.change.org has already attracted nearly 70,000 signatures against coal mining inside Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve.
The Centre gave the Stage-I clearance to CIL for 57.20 hectares in December 2019 with 28 conditions, including fines and action against responsible officers violating the Forest Conservation Act.
The Assam Forest Department had 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 last meeting in April 2020, the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wild Life (NBWL) 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 RG RG