[ Prem Taba ]
ITANAGAR, May 25: While the entire nation has been under lockdown, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) and the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), our country’s highest government authorities entrusted with the role of protection of India’s environment, forests and wildlife have been busy diluting our environment laws and clearing industrial, mining, hydropower, commercial projects via video conferencing in our most pristine and biodiversity rich forests.
This has enraged citizens across India and they have been expressing their angst on Twitter and other social media platforms.
A nationwide tweet storm organised by college and university students’ organizations from North East India under the banner Northeast Solidarity for Environmental Justice (NSEJ), and supported by citizens from different parts of the nation on Sunday, trended at number 1 in all India trends and across most cities in the country.
Citizens across the length and breadth of India were unified in their demand from the Indian government to #SaveDibangValley, #SaveDehingPatkai, and #SaveAmazonOfEast.
The NSEJ also issued a joint statement against exploitation of forests, land, and resources in Northeast States demanding immediate reversal of extractive projects in Dehing Patkai, Dibang Valley, and Dibru Saikhowa.
In their joint release, the NSEJ said they consider “these clearances as not only a form of disregard for people, particularly the indigenous communities, but a continuation of exploitative structures and mechanisms of an extractive regime in place in the Northeast. The fact that survival of forests and ecosystems are integral to the survival and identity of indigenous communities needs reiteration. Indigenous ways of life and especially the rights of the Northeastern people have repeatedly come under threats, demonstrated recently by the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act (2019). Such attacks on the region’s ecological diversity are also an attack on indigenous identity/culture.”
Expressing apprehension at the nature of projects that are being pushed forward in the name of “development” in the Northeast, the students stressed the need to look for alternative development routes that are in line with the communities’ vision for themselves and their lands.
The NSEJ, while condemning the unilateral decisions taken by the MoEFCC , NBWL and FAC reiterated that the concerns of the people have to be addressed in a transparent and time-bound manner and that any such project affecting the ecology in the Northeast must be curtailed.
Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh and Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve in Assam are recognised as one of the most bio-diverse rich forest habitats, not just in India but globally as well.
Citizens along with scientists and conservationists across India demanded that permission given for these ecologically and culturally destructive projects in India’s mega biodiversity hotspots be withdrawn by the government. The mesmerising Dibang Valley and Dehing Patkai along with its indigenous people, rare wildlife and pristine forests need to be preserved for the generations to come.
[ Prem Taba ]