Dehing Patkai Rain Forest, a stretch of forests starting from Upper Dihing reserve Forests in the east up to the Jeypore reserve forest has been notified as a national park by the Assam government on 9 June 2021, taking the number of national parks in the state to a total of seven. The announcement comes shortly after Raimona reserve forest in western Assam’s Kokrajhar district was upgraded to a national park on June 5.
With the highest level of protection available under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 now, the Forest and wildlife conservation have been strengthened here by adding another 123.07 sq km to the original sanctuary area and conferring national park status to 234.26 sq km
Excluding the forest village area diverted under the Forest Conservation Act, areas falling within the existing Dehing Patkai wildlife sanctuary along with all the additional reserve forests — Upper Dihing reserve forest (west block) and Jeypore reserve forest are included in the notification of the national park. Short stretches of Dirak River and Burhi Dihing river falling within this contiguous patch of the proposed national park have also been included.
For intensive patrolling and conservation of the new area, additional anti-poaching camps and manpower are being provided by the state government. “We had five national parks — Kaziranga, Nameri, Orang, Manas and Dibru-Saikhowa. With Raimona and Dehing Patkai, we will now have seven,” Assam Forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya said in a press conference on Wednesday.
He added that now the park would aid tourism and agriculture sectors as well as help promote conservation efforts from the people. With seven national parks, Assam is now the state with the second highest number of national parks in the country, second to Madhya Pradesh with 11 national parks. The Union Territory of Andaman and Nicobar has nine national parks.
The newly notified national park shall be administered by Soraipung range of Digboi division and Jeypore range of Dibrugarh division, both falling under conservator, eastern Assam circle, who shall be notified as director of Dehing Patkai national park.
Popularly known as Dehing Patkai Rain Forest, is located inside the larger Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve and has unique floral and faunal diversity, which was recognised by the Assam government in 2004. Known for its elephant population, Dehing Patkai has 47 mammal species, 47 reptile species, and 310 butterfly species. The area is said to have the highest concentration of the rare endangered White Winged Wood Duck drawing a large number of ornithologists.
Dehing Patkai had sparked a series of virtual protests during the month of April last year. The protest highlighted the illegal mining of coal in the region harming the wildlife of the forests. The immediate trigger was the National Board of Wildlife’s (NBWL) conditional clearance to a coal mining project by Coal India Limited (CIL) in the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve. The North Eastern Coalfields (NEC), the CIL subsidiary, temporarily suspended all mining operations in the region as a response.
The decision to upgrade it to a national park was announced by the Sarbananda Sonowal government in July 2020, just months after the controversy.