GUWAHATI: Conservationists and wildlife activists in Assam are ecstatic as the state government has decided to upgrade the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary into a national park.
The decision was made at a meeting that Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal had with senior government officials on Monday.
“Our Govt has decided to upgrade the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam, which is home to a vast variety of flora and fauna, to a national park. In a meeting with senior officials in Guwahati today, I have directed them to take necessary steps in this regard,” Sonowal tweeted.
Technically, there are no hurdles now. The proposal will be submitted to the Central government for clearance. Usually, the Centre does not veto such a proposal from a state government.
The national park status will guarantee better management and protection of the flora and fauna of Dehing Patkai which forms the largest stretch of lowland rainforest in the country. The flow of more funds is expected to boost its infrastructure.
A section of conservationists and lawyers had fought a long battle demanding its upgradation into a national park.
Apurba Ballav Goswami, one of the conservationists who had written extensively demanding the sanctuary’s upgradation into a national park, was euphoric on Monday.
“I welcome the government’s decision. The Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary is Assam’s Amazon. The national park status to it will surely go a long way,” Goswami told this newspaper.
“It is a virgin rainforest rich in bio-diversity. I feel someday it could be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” Goswami, who is also a senior journalist, said with a tinge of confidence.
He believed coal mining in the sanctuary’s vicinity would now come to an end.
Last month, the National Board of Wildlife’s move to grant coal mining at an elephant reserve near the sanctuary had triggered a row. Later, the Gauhati High Court admitted a PIL challenging the decision.
Located in Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts, the 111.19 sq km Dehing Patkai was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 2004. It is home to 47 mammal, 47 reptile, and 310 butterfly species.