There is a common thread between Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve in Assam, Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand, Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park in Goa. While India stayed home during the lockdown, these protected areas were either being slowly unlocked or prepared to be unlocked for human activities and development projects. A safe haven for biodiversity and wildlife, India’s protected areas are losing to the environment ministry’s clearance spree where coal mining, road construction, and other projects are being approved within these ecologically sensitive areas.
For instance, the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve rainforest in Assam, which includes the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, was recently at the centre of a controversy over illegal coal mining in a section of the reserve that has a sizable population of elephants. The controversy sparked viral virtual movements on social media under hashtags #SaveDehingPatkai and #ImDehingPatkai bolstered by art and music. Raging protests have temporarily stalled mining operations but its future remains uncertain.
The elephant reserve spreads over 575 sq km of forest areas stretches across Tinsukia, Dibrugarh and Sivasagar districts of Assam. The Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary spans 111.19 sq km of the rainforest. The reserve also includes the Saleki Proposed Reserve Forest and other patches. The rainforest is…