Assam is home to the largest lowland tropical rainforest of India. Ironically this amazing rainforest patch of Assam was long forgotten by all, no one cared to mention about it’s existence till 1990s when Nature’s Beckon shook the world with its vibrant Rainforest conservation movement to bring forth the protection and future conservation of 500sqkm of contiguous rainforest patch spread across the Dibrugarh – Tinsukia districts of Assam. This 500sqkm is part of the largest rainforest of Assam. Nature’s Beckon raised this unique people’s conservation movement for the protection of 500sqkm of the contiguous rainforest which constitutes the entire area of Jeypore Reserve Forest, Upper Dehing Reserve Forest and Dirak Reserve Forest. The complete protection of this 500sqkm of rainforest is indispensable for the conservation of this rare natural heritage of Assam. Nature’s Beckon led rainforest conservation movement led to the creation of Dehing Patkai WLS in 2004. But the Dehing Patkai WLS was created by including only 111.19sqkm of the total proposed 500sqkm of the contiguous rainforest. Nature’s Beckon kept the movement alive, the fight to protect the entire 500sqkm of rainforest is still going on. Nature’s Beckon has been appealing to successive governments to facilitate the protection of the entire 500sqkm of the rainforest patch of Upper Assam. Nature’s Beckon believes in pragmatic conservation measures, the only way to protect any forest in India is to bring it under the ambit of Wildlife Protection Act of India by upgrading the forest to either Wildlife Sanctuary or National Park. Hence, Nature’s Beckon has been demanding the upgradation of the entire 500sqkm of the rainforest into a wildlife Sanctuary. Nature’s Beckon appeals to the present government to expand the area of the Dehing Patkai WLS to include the entire 500sqkm of the contiguous rainforest in its jurisdiction. We are pleased to share with everyone the salient points of our memorandum which we have submitted to the present Chief Minister of Assam, Shri Sarbananda Sonowal to enable his government to consolidate one of the most historic decision for Assam. Get a glimpse of our memorandum below:
Shri Sarbananda Sonowal
Honorable Chief Minister of Assam
Sub: Appeal to expand the area of the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary from its existing 111.19 sqkm to 500 sqkm and the upgradation of this area to the status of Wildlife Sanctuary to ensure its protection and future conservation. At the same time, we also appeal for including the entire area of Jeypore Reserve Forest as Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary.
I take the privilege to extend deep respect and warm greetings from all members and workers of Nature’s Beckon to you. Keeping faith in your leadership and believing in your firm conviction to work for the benefit of the environment, forests and wildlife of Assam, we put forward few very important and pertinent facts for the pragmatic conservation of the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary and the existing rainforests of Assam to you. Apart from this, we would like to appeal yet another time for the expansion of the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, to include at least 500sqkm of contiguous rainforest in its domain ( Prior to this, we officially sent our appeal for the same to you through a letter Dated 27th April 2020, RFM2/1/2020).
1. You must be aware of the fact that since 1994 Nature’s Beckon has been relentlessly working for the conservation of the rainforests of Assam; especially in the Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts of Assam. With its steadfast efforts, Nature’s Beckon had raised the rainforest conservation movement of Assam, a people’s movement to upgrade the contiguous rainforest patch of Jeypore, Upper Dehing and Dirak to that of a wildlife sanctuary. From the very beginning, Nature’s Beckon has reiterated the urgency to declare this 500sqkm of contiguous rainforest as a wildlife sanctuary; otherwise this unbelievably rich forest patch will be pushed to the path of destruction. Illegal coal mining, smuggling of timber and other such unlawful activities will lead to the complete destruction of this rich rainforest patch of Assam. Hence, it is crucial to consolidate protection to 500 sqkm of this rainforest patch including the contiguous Jeypore, Upper Dehing and Dirak Reserve Forests by declaring it as a wildlife sanctuary. But, the previous State government prior to yours didn’t upgrade this entire 500sqkm of pristine rainforest to the status of wildlife sanctuary.
2. In 1994 Nature’s Beckon started the rainforest conservation movement for the protection of 500sqkm contiguous rainforest patch of Upper Assam, the movement demanded the creation of a wildlife sanctuary with this 500sqkm of rainforest area. But, in response to our demand only 111.19sqkm out of the proposed 500sqkm of rainforest was constituted as Dehing Patkai Wildife Sanctuary in 2004. The remaining 388.81sqkm (out of the proposed 500sqkm of rainforest) outside the ambit of the wildlife sanctuary was left out for the benefit of coal and timber mafias. At this time, Assam was under the Congress led government and Honorable Shri Prodyut Bordoloi was the State Forest Minister. In June 2004, the Forest minister Shri Prodyut Bordoloi declared 111.19sqkm of the rainforest as Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, leaving behind 388.81sqkm of the rainforest which was an integral part of our proposed wildlife sanctuary without any kind of protection. Our proposal included the best part of the contiguous rainforest patch soliciting its future protection, which included the biodiversity rich pristine rainforest of Jeypore Reserve Forest. The notification of Dehing Patkai WLS in 2004 excluded a very large area of Jeypore Reserve Forest. At any cost, the entire rainforest of Jeypore Reserve Forest must get included in the domain of Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary. Hence, we earnestly request you to bring forth the expansion of the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary, and to include 500sqkm of pristine rainforest in it without further delay.
3. In the year 2004, the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary was constituted to give protection to 111.19sqkm of the rainforest. Now, this is time to take forward the conservation process and expand the area from 111.19sqkm to at least an area of 500sqkm. Upgrading the present 111.19sqkm Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary into a National Park will not accrue any benefit. The National Park must include 500sqkm of the rainforest.
4. We consider it important to state our opinion that first of all the total area of the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary must be expanded from the existing 111.19sqkm to 500sqkm. This expansion of Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary must accompany its infrastructural development. The up-gradation of this wildlife sanctuary to a National Park should take place once the necessary facilities and infrastructural development materializes.
5. At present the infrastructure of Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary is in a very miserable state. There is no forest camp inside the wildlife sanctuary for the forest guards, even the area is crippling under the shortage of forest workers. One or two dilapidated camps exist, which are unfit for human dwelling. Even the Range Officer does not have any car. Without any further delay, the forest department should act to solve these ailing problems of Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary. Especially the Dibrugarh Forest Division and the Digboi Forest Division needs a facelift in this regard. The shortage of forest workers could incur irreplaceable damage to this wildlife sanctuary.
6. A dedicated forest division needs to be formed for the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary and the forest department must ensure the complete protection of the forest and wildlife of Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary. For more stringent protection measures, the use of wireless network must be introduced in Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary.
7. Watch towers should be built at selected points inside the forest for bird watching as well as for observation and study of other wildlife species. The area of the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sancturay needs to get well demarcated by building concrete walls in the identified border. Walls needs to be built along the road also, these walls should be used to display various graphics, slogans and other relevant matters to spread awareness among the masses regarding biodiversity/wildlife conservation. People should come to know about the existence of Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sancturay, everyone needs to understand that this is a wildlife sanctuary.
8. Forest check posts must be installed at the entry points of the wildlife sanctuary. Forest department should make the necessary arrangements to facilitate a hassle free process to provide entry permits to the tourists to enter the wildlife sanctuary. The forest department should ensure the collection of appropriate entry fees for entering the wildlife sanctuary as applicable in India.
9. Our envisioned proposed wildlife sanctuary included the Jeypore, Upper Dehing and Dirak Reserve Forests in entirety. The 111.19sqkm Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary was cut out by including a part of this proposed wildlife sanctuary. The remaining part of this proposed wildlife sanctuary must get included in the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary for its future protection.
10. These three Reserve Forests constitutes an inseparable contiguous patch of forest spread over Dibrugarh and Tinsukia districts. This contiguous forest patch comprises of 500sqkm of verdant tropical rainforest, characterized by a multi storied forest structure. Each layer of this multistoried forest is adorned with a wide variety of rare trees which attain height of 20-45mtrs.
11. This rainforest is home to innumerable wild animals, birds, reptiles and insects; this tally includes many rare and endangered wildlife species which are enlisted under schedule 1 category. Among these, many are endemic species, i.e., species which are seen only in this rainforest and nowhere else in the entire world. Hence, this rainforest patch of Assam is repository of an amazing multitude of biodiversity.
12. Several endangered species of wildlife are found in the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary and our proposed wildlife sanctuary area (which includes the rainforest of Jeypore RF). Worth mentioning are the names of few wildlife species out of all – Hoolock Gibbon, Slow Loris, Elephant, Gaur, Tiger, Leopard, Clouded Leopard, Golden Cat, Fishing Cat, Marble Cat, Sambar, Hog Deer, Sloth Bear, Binturong, Spotted Linsang, Sultan Tit, Hill Myna, Green Imperial Pigeon, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Great Hornbill, White Winged Duck, Yellow Monitor, Burmese Python, etc.
13. Hoolock Gibbon is one of the most critically endangered and rare wildlife species in the world. The Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary is India’s only viable prime habitat for this endangered ape species. Hoolock Gibbon is the only ape species found in India and its distribution is restricted to the Northeastern states of India.
14. According to the Zoological Survey of India, the forests where Hoolock Gibbons are thriving in healthy populations should get protected as wildlife sanctuary without any delay. The rainforest patch constituting Jeypore, Upper Dehing and Dirak provides an ideal habitat to Hoolock Gibbons. This rainforest is home to very healthy populations of Hoolock Gibbon till date. Therefore, it is very important to declare this entire 500sqkm of rainforest comprising the entire Jeypore RF into a wildlife sanctuary.
15. Apart from Hoolock Gibbon, the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary and its adjacent forest (the proposed wildlife sanctuary) constitute an important habitat for many other species of non-human primates. India harbors a total of 16 species of non-human primates, out of this 7 species are found in this rainforest. These include 5 endangered non-human primate species.
16. The forest of Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary along with the adjoining forest of the proposed wildlife sanctuary comprises one of Assam’s richest most Elephant habitats and this forest space makes a contiguous stretch of forest cover with Arunachal Pradesh; hence, it is also an important Elephant corridor. This 500sqkm of pristine rainforest must be protected as wildlife sanctuary in entirety for Elephant conservation.
17. The complete protection of the contiguous Jeypore, Upper Dehing and Dirak, i.e., the protection of the contiguous 500sqkm of this rainforest as a wildlife sanctuary will enable us to fulfill the conservation objectives of Project Elephant as directed by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India.
18. At one time, a very large part of Upper Assam was covered under a wide expanse of rainforest and almost all forests were either contiguous or connected with each other. Since the past 100 years, government has claimed these forests and has given a false notion to people that these forests are protected in the name of Reserved Forests. Whereas, forest produces are been extracted in a very large scale, like timber, bamboo, cane, etc. The rising extraction of forest products in a very large scale, which includes illegal trade, also, has led to the denudation of most of the forests. Large tracts of forests have been fragmented and got reduced to small jungles. If Jeypore and the rainforests adjacent to the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary are left as Reserve Forests, then they are undeniably fated to vanish sooner or later. The destruction of these rainforests will eventually bring devastation to the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary and its wildlife.
19. The Jeypore and other rainforests which remained outside the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary despite being a contiguous single unit forest, should be included in the ambit of the wildlife sanctuary to avert any threat to these rainforests from anthropogenic activities like encroachment, coal mining, crude oil extraction, etc. which may destroy these rich rainforests. Since, this rainforest patch stretches into Arunachal Pradesh, the protection of this rainforest as a wildlife sanctuary will contribute towards mitigating border disputes and other inter-state skirmishes, which in turn will make an excellent step towards effective biodiversity conservation of the area.
20. The wide expanse of primordial rainforest which once dominated this region has faced the onslaught due to coal mining, agriculture, tea plantation, replacement of forest by human habitations, crude oil extraction, erosion, pollution, etc. The primitive rainforests were destroyed because of all these reasons. This 500sqkm of contiguous rainforest of Upper Assam is the last surviving largest patch of rainforest which calls for immediate protection; hence, we must upgrade this 500sqkm of rainforest into a wildlife sanctuary without fail.
21. We must protect this rainforest from the clutches of destructive forces so that the scientists can gain an insight into the intricate relationships between different life forms through research and studies. These rainforests are nature’s laboratories which stores priceless knowledge and wisdom in its diverse existence.
22. So far, the scientific world has studied only a miniscule portion about the life forms present in these rainforests. We are losing rainforests and their species at such a pace that it seems we will lose precious life forms even before we get to know them. This is possible that may be in near future, research may lead to the discovery of certain plant which may provide us cure for disease like cancer. But for such a discovery to happen, we must protect these rainforests in the first place.
23. If we succeed to save the sanctity and primitive beauty of our rainforests, there is a possibility of attracting eco-tourists from across the globe who are interested to visit and learn about such places of natural history. This rainforest patch is hope for an ideal eco-tourism industry in Upper Assam. The people living nearby the rainforest, viz; Jeypore, Naharkatia, Namrup, Digboi, Margherita, etc will benefit the most from such an industry. The Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary and its adjoining rainforests have the potential to form an ideal eco-tourism model in Upper Assam.
24. We have been urging for the protection of 500 sqkm of rainforest which includes the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary and its adjacent rainforests (our proposed wildlife sanctuary) including the contiguous Jeypore rainforest. It is worth mentioning here that, this 500sqkm of rainforest is in the best form, there are no encroachments, no villages and no mining activity in this 500sqkm. Hence, upgrading this 500sqkm to wildlife sanctuary won’t be difficult; there are no legal tussles to impede the process. As such the State Government can easily expand the ambit of the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary to include Jeypore, Upper Dehing, Dirak and other contiguous rainforests it its sanctum sanctorum.
25. Nature’s Beckon have already studied the rich rainforest of Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary and the adjacent rainforests, have checklisted the wildlife of this rainforest patch and have documented and published it in the form of books and other study materials. The Jeypore rainforest has also been covered in our studies. In the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary together with Jeypore, Upper Dehing rainforests constituting the future 500sqkm of wildlife sanctuary– 40 species of mammals, more than 300 species of wild birds, 40 species of reptiles and amphibians, 60 species of tall trees, 28 species of orchids has been so far checklisted. This study is still going on. Henceforth, it is crucial to expand the ambit of Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary from 111.19sqkm to 500sqkm immediately.
We earnestly request the Honorable Chief Minister of Assam, Shri Sarbananda Sonowal to bring forth the expansion of Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary from 111.19sqkm to 500sqkm and thus provide protection to 500sqkm of contiguous rainforest of Upper Assam. We are hopeful that Shri Sarbanada Sonowal, the Chief Minister of Assam will ensure the long term conservation of Assam’s pristine rainforests by upgrading the rainforests to the status of wildlife sanctuary.