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Concern over coal mining in Dehing Patkai


GUWAHATI, May 6 - The Assam Environmental NGO Forum (AENF) has expressed deep concern at the approval being given by the standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife in its recent virtual meeting to extract coal from Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary in eastern Assam, which is the remaining rain forest of the State.

On June 13, 2004, an area of about 360 sq km of rain forests in eastern Assam covering Joypoore reserve forest (RF), Upper Dehing RF and Dirak RF was identified to be declared a wildlife sanctuary (WLS) as demanded at that time by NGO Nature�s Beckon, although later only 111.19 sq km area was declared as Dehing Patkai WLS.

The AENF stressed that the area earlier earmarked covering 360 sq km area of rain forests needed to be conserved, as the area is having a very high biodiversity with outstanding universal values.

�Although some areas of these forests are included under Elephant Reserve, it is not enough to offer real protection. Coal may be extracted from other areas where biodiversity is not that high. It will be suicidal for the government to allow coal mining in this pristine forest area of eastern Assam,� it said in a statement.

The rain forest area, the AENF added, has the potential to attract economic benefit through eco-tourism which will not only conserve the important rain forest areas, but would also ensure local livelihood through eco-tourism.

The AENF includes NGOs like Aaranyak, Kaziranga Wildlife Society, Green Guard Nature Organisation, Aranya Surakhya Samiti - Asom, Early Birds and Nature�s Green Guard.

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