Wildlife Board nod for mining in Assam elephant reserve  

#GS3 #Environment  

  • Amid the countrywide lockdown, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has recommended coal mining in a part of an elephant reserve in Assam.  
  • The NBWL’s Standing Committee had discussed a proposal for use of 98.59 hectares of land from the Saleki proposed reserve forest land for a coal mining project by North-Easter Coal Field (NECF), a unit of Coal India Limited.  
  • The NBWL is under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC).  
  • Saleki is a part of the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve that includes the Dehing Patkai  

Wildlife Sanctuary covering 111.19 sq km of rainforest and several reserve forests in Sivasagar, Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts.  

Panel set up  

  • The NBWL formed a committee comprising Assam’s Chief Wildlife Warden, and a representative of the local wildlife division for assessing the mining area.  
  • The 57.20 ha of hilly forestland had already been broken up by the user agency (NECF) and the remaining 41.39 ha was unbroken.  
  • A “cautious approach” for preserving the “basic integrity of this forested hill slope” that is a part of the elephant reserve in Assam adjoining Arunachal Pradesh’s Deomali Elephant Reserve with “a sizeable population of elephants”.  
  • For the unbroken area, the matter will be considered after the user agency submits a feasibility report for underground mining, and also submits compliance report regarding fulfilment of all other conditions.   
  • The recommendation reflects the disdain this government has for green assets, particularly a biodiversity hotspot to benefit the mining lobby.  
  • The remark followed the local wildlife division’s report pointing to illegal coal mining in the Tikak open cast pit mining in Saleki.   
  • The division also said 4,800 tonnes of coal from “unauthorised breaking up” of 16 ha of the area had been seized. The Assam Forest Department has completely failed in protecting the biodiversity of the State and has allowed all illegal mining of coal, stone, sand, etc., violating all rules and regulations.   
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