Environment worker NIjara Phukan tonsures her head as part of protest against the Centre move on Dehing Patkai Credit: EastMojo Image

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Guwahati: Urging Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal to take active initiative for protection of Dehing Patkai, environment activist Nijara Phukan has tonsured her head in protest, She criticised the Centre’s move to allow extraction of coal at Saleki in Dehing Patkai elephant reserve in upper Assam recently.

In an open letter to Sonowal, Phukan, who is also secretary of Brikhabandhu, a group working for protection of environment in upper Assam, has requested the state government to protect Dehing Patkai, also known as Amazon of the East.

She also requested the people of Assam to raise their voice against the Centre’s move.

In a significant development, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) had last month permitted Coal India Ltd to carry out coal extraction in 98.59 hectares of the elephant reserve, triggering opposition from various organisations and individuals.

Earlier, expressing serious concern over the Centre decision, senior Congress leader and Lok Sabha MP Gaurav Gogoi has also requested Union minister for environment and forest Prakash Javadkar to cancel the permission and protect the biodiversity hotspot.

Also Read: Assam minister to visit Dehing Patkai to assess situation soon: CM

In a letter to Union minister for environment, forest and climate change Prakash Javadekar, the Lok Sabha MP from Kaliabor constituency said, “Assam is the 6 most bio-diverse region in South Asia and Dehing Patkai is a special region within Assam with rare species of birds, butterfly, fish, animals and water bodies. In 2003, the Assam government had protected this region as Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve because an elephant corridor runs through this area… In 2012, Assam State Wildlife Board refused permission to Coal India Ltd for casting coal in this wildlife sanctuary.”

Terming the Centre’s move as anti-Assam and anti-Northeast, Rajya Sabha MP Ajit Bhuyan along with some of the leading citizens of the state have severely criticised the Centre for the move and urged the state government to adequate measures for the protection of the Dehing Patkai elephant reserve.

Also Read: Assam MP writes to Union forest minster to protect Dehing Patkai

The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) has also strongly opposed the NBWL’s decision to allow coal mining in the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary and urged the government to immediately roll back the decision in order to save the Dehing Patkai, which is also known as the Amazon of the East.

Meanwhile, amid the increasing public concern over the decision of the Centre to allow extraction of coal at Saleki in Dehing Patkai elephant reserve in upper Assam, state chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal has said that Assam government is very much committed to protect the environment and biodiversity while developing the state.

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