While the entire nation has been under lockdown, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) and the National Board for WildLife (NBWL), our country’s highest government authorities entrusted with the role of protection of India’s environment, forests and wildlife have been busy diluting our environment laws and clearing industrial, mining, hydropower, commercial projects in our most pristine and biodiversity rich forests. This has enraged citizens across India and they have been expressing their angst on Twitter and other social media platforms using hashtags such as #SaveDehingPatkai  #IamDehingPatkai #IndiaAgainstDeforestation, #DumbOrGreedy, #SaveEIA, #SaveAmazonOfEast #SaveDibangValley and others.

An online movement initiated by Gauhati University’s Eco Club ‘Moi Prokriti’ to spare Dehing Patkai rainforest from coal mining, has increased huge perceivability.The online movement started on 13th May,2020 and it has gathered a great response from the netizens.

After a huge number of netizens came forward and tweeted about the issue, Bollywood actor Randeep Hooda tweeted on issue. ” ‘Called Amazon of the East’, Dehing Patkai sanctuary has everything from elephants, cats to bears, famous Assam macaque in which the govt has performed mining. Do we need another COVID-19 to realise how important biodiversity is,” he tweeted alongside a connect to a change.org campaign addressed to the CM of Assam, among others.

Bollywood actor Dia Mirza additionally took to Twitter to voice her supposition. She tweeted #SaveDehingPatkai along with a quote by Forest Man of India Padma Shri Jadav Payeng.

A nationwide tweet storm organised by Moi Prokriti,the Gauhati University Eco-Club in collaboration with the students of Tezpur University, Dibrugarh University,Cotton University and Bhattadev University and supported by citizens from different parts of the nation on Sunday,  24 th May,2020 trended at number 1 in all India trends and across most cities in the country. Citizens across the length and breadth of India irrespective of their caste, colour, creed or religion from Itanagar, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, West Bengal in East India to Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, UttarPradesh in North India; and Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka in West and South India were unified in their demand from the Indian government to #SaveDehingPatkai #SaveAmazonOfEast and #SaveDibangValley. Randeep Hooda even used the hashtag in his earlier posts’ thread in support of the Tweet Storm on Sunday.

Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh and Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve in Assam are recognised as one of the most bio-diverse rich forest habitats not just in India but globally as well. They are home to some of the most rare and endangered flora and fauna which will be lost forever with the nod given by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) for clearing more than 6,00,000 old growth trees in Dibang valley for two environmentally destructive hydro power projects (Etalin and Dibang MultiPurpose projects) and by the National Board for Wild Life (NBWL) chaired by Mr. Narendra Modi himself for coal mining in 98.59 hectares in Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve. Sub tropical forests like these are complex ecosystems with species that have evolved over millions of years. Once cut, they will be lost forever.

Dehing Patkai in Assam, referred to as ‘Amazon of The East’, is part of the largest stretch of tropical lowland rainforests in Eastern Himalayas and Indo-Burma biodiversity hotspots. Some of the rare species found in Dehing Patkai are of high cultural importance for the Assamese people like Hollong (state tree), Foxtail Orchid (state flower) and White Winged Duck (state bird). Research studies through camera trapping reveal presence of 7 wild cat species in Dehing Patkai Reserve. This is the highest diversity of wild cats found anywhere in the world. Research on primates like Western Hoolock Gibbon, Bengal Slow Loris etc in Dehing Patkai has found that arboreal species (living in trees) need unfragmented forests for their survival. Dehing Patkai along with adjoining Deomali Reserve in Arunachal has a healthy population of more than 600 elephants whose natural movement will get negatively impacted by coal mining leading to increased man-animal conflict. Dehing Patkai is also one of the last remaining habitats of 12 bird species that are of High Conservation Concern according to the State of India’s Birds Report 2020. There are 4 tree cavity nesting hornbill species that are highly vulnerable which are only found in Dehing Patkai & Namdapha National Park in India. Dehing Patkai is home to globally threatened mammals such as Himalayan Black Bear, Chinese Pangolin, Himalayan Giant Squirrel and many others. Coal mining in this pristine land will contaminate groundwater, rivers, streams and the soil and cause habitat destruction, which will endanger the lives of more than 50 mammal species, 350 bird species, 310 butterfly species,70 species of reptiles & amphibians, 40 odonate species and many ethnic groups residing in the area like Tai Phake, Khamyang, Khampti, Singpho, Nocte, Ahom, Kaibarta, Moran. Nod given for coal mining in this environmentally and ecologically sensitive zone needs to be revoked.

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