A new awakening in Assam- Editorial(July)

Editor(EN), The Seed

Novanita Sharma

Assam gets three protected areas in a row, within the first 7 months of the year 2021! From the Dihing Patkai National Park, Raimona National Park to the Ajgar Wildlife Sanctuary, the government of Assam is setting a trend for all to follow in protecting the verdant forests of our country. The unusual promptness shown by the state government of Assam in completing the official formalities in notifying the two recently declared National Parks, viz; the Dihing Patkai National Park situated in the Dibrugarh – Tinsukia districts and the Raimona National Park in the Kokrajhar district of Assam came as a hallmark of hope to all nature loving people of India. The Dihing Patkai National Park constituting an area of 234.26sqkm of contiguous tropical rainforest in the Dibrugarh – Tinsukia districts commemorates the steadfast 3 decades long rainforest conservation movement of Assam which span across the length and breadth of Assam. It grew timelessly through participation of people from varied walks and times, creating a holistic consciousness for the conservation of the largest contiguous patch of verdant tropical rainforest situated in Upper Assam. The state forest minister Shri Parimal Suklabaidya inaugurated the Dihing Patkai National Park in an official function held in Jeypore on 3rd July 2021; attended by the fringe villagers, youth, nature activists, forest officials and many others who took active part in this people’s movement for the permanent protection of this natural treasure of Assam. The recognition given to the Nature’s Beckon led rainforest conservation movement by the government of Assam came as a huge encouragement for countless people who took part in this historic conservation initiative. The protection of 234.26sqkm of one of the richest tropical rainforest patch of Asia in the form of Dihing Patkai NP and the inclusion of the exceptionally rich Jeypore rainforest in the National Park are significant milestones for the rainforest conservation movement of Assam so far. Nature’s Beckon who sow the seed and led this people’s movement from 1990s to the present date remains committed to the cause of protecting 500sqkm of this contiguous tropical rainforest of Assam. The rainforest conservation movement of Assam moves on with renewed motivation and spirit.

Nature’s Beckon submitted a proposal for protection of the last remnants of rich forests of Goalpara district in the form of Ajgar Wildlife Sanctuary and Pancharatna Wildlife Sanctuary to the Chief Minister of Assam on 30th June 2021. Without causing any delay the government of Assam passed its resolution for Ajgar Wildlife Sanctuary in its budget session on 16th July 2021. While we await the official gazette notification of the Ajgar WLS and the protection of the proposed Pancharatna WLS in near future, it is noteworthy that the rapid action shown by the State Government towards protecting the forests of Assam is path breaking. This change in the political will and cooperation of government machinery towards wildlife conservation and environment protection was long awaited by many of us, who have otherwise tasted the slow grinding and completely apathetic erstwhile governments who hopelessly failed to give protection to the natural resources of Assam. It took more than 10 years for the Nature’s Beckon led community driven conservation initiative to protect one of the newly discovered natural habitat of Golden Langur situated in the present day Kokrajhar district as Chakrashila WLS in 1994. The unprecedented struggle of rainforest conservation movement is well documented and is known to all. Nature’s Beckon withstood steep resistance in constituting protection to 111.19sqkm of the pristine rainforest patch of upper Assam as Dihing Patkai WLS in 2004, this happened after 10 years of determined rainforest conservation movement which began in 1994. The present Dihing Patkai National is a fruit of this Nature’s Beckon led rainforest conservation movement of Assam. While the indifference and exploitation of the previous regimes caused irreparable loss to the environment of Assam, the firm commitment of organizations like Nature’s Beckon towards effective biodiversity conservation led to a gradual change in the psyche of Assamese people. The stupendous love and support received by Nature’s Beckon from the people of Assam shows the deep rooted impact of the green – movement spearheaded by the organization in this part of the country. It is well reflected in the advent of green consciousness in the public psyche; the traditionally nature loving people of Assam evolved with this green movement towards an empowered community in action for effective biodiversity conservation and environment protection in due course of time. This evolution of thoughts and actions is evident in the change of political will of the State towards the cause of biodiversity conservation in Assam. Now, a forest patch need not languish for decades awaiting the final verdict on its fate seeking legal protection under the law of the Nation. The contemporary State government of Assam under the leadership of Chief Minister, Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma is praiseworthy for this much awaited wind of change in governance related to environment in Assam. In fact, this evolution of political will as seen in Assam is a remarkable shift for the Indian polity, where environment and wildlife still don’t figure out as viable political agenda. The rapt indifference practiced by few of the richest economies from across the globe also falls back in the same wagon of political naysayers who chose to remain blind to the threats from global environment crises like climate change and mass species extinction. In such a scenario, the exemplary stand shown by the state government of Assam is very bold and progressive. Assam sets a trend, for rest of the world to follow. Assam is bestowed with unparalleled natural bounty and hence, we ought to act with greater diligence, understanding and responsibility. The rise of political will in Assam promises to make a significant contribution in this regard. Let us not fail in taking forward this trend, let us be harbinger of this change for the benefit of Assam, for the benefit of our country and for the entire world.