There is a controversy brewing in Assam over environment clearances given for two separate projects. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has given clearance for hydrocarbon drilling to Oil India Limited at seven locations under the Dibru Saikhowa National Park in Assam's Tinsukia district at time when there is already a lot of criticism in the state over the centre allowing coal mining in the Dihing Patkai wildlife sanctuary, spread over Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts. Dihing Patkai is known as the Amazon of the East.
Oil India Limited, which has got permission to drill in Dibru Saikhowa, claims that it will use state of the art technology and extract hydrocarbon without entering the protected area of the Dibru Saikhowa.
"OIL management would like to share the following information for the benefit of all stakeholders so that they can be reassured that OIL's operations will have no impact on the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park Area. OIL will be able to accomplish this task of exploring hydrocarbon reserves under the Dibru-Saikhowa National Park by use of the Extended Reach Drilling (ERD) technology," Oil India Limited stated in a press release.
On the other hand, in view of the reported public opposition in a section of media with regard to the purported attempt of coal mining at Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Wednesday directed Assam Environment & Forests Minister Parimal Suklabaidya to visit the sanctuary for taking stock of the ground situation there.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Chief Minister said that the Government of Assam is committed to protect the environment and biodiversity of the state and will not compromise with its stand in the name development initiatives.
He also said that the Environment & Forests Minister, during his visit to the area, will conduct a field study of the present condition of the Wildlife Sanctuary and apprise the Government for the needful.
The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), in April, approved a coal-mining project in the Saleki reserve forest which is a part of the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve. The announcement was made via video conference, by none other than Union Environment and Forest Minister Prakash Javedakar, who is also the chairman of NBWL.
This has led to widespread criticism and a growing online campaign against the decision.
The Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary is located in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts of Assam, and it covers 111.19 square kilometres. This rare rainforest is situated in the foothills of the Himalayan range. It is a part of the Assam valley tropical wet evergreen forest. Dehing is a river that flows through it, and Patkai is the hill on the foot of which the river flows. It was declared as a sanctuary on June 13, 2004. This sanctuary is also a part of Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve. Dehing Patkai forms the largest stretch of tropical lowland rainforests in India. The forest is often referred to as the 'Amazon of the East' owing to its expanse and thick forest.