Dehing Patkai - the Rainforest of Assam in Peril

By Niranjan Nayak

Four of the total five species of globally threatened Hornbill species found in Dehing Patkai, namely Great Hornbill, Pied Hornbill, Austen's Brown Hornbill and Wreathed Hornbill.

Artwork on Stones by Niranjan Nayak

At the beginning of April 2020 as the countrywide lockdown continues, the National Board for Wildlife of India (NBWL)has approved a coal mining project in the Saleki area of the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve in Assam. On 7th April, NBWL’S standing committee had discussed a proposal for use of 98.59 hectares of land from Saleki proposed reserve forest land for a coal mining project by North-Easter Coal Field (NECF), a unit of Coal India Limited. The nature lovers and environmental experts alike have raised serious concerns on this move by the NBWL, fearing extensive damage that this expansion of coal mining would cause to the only rain forest existing in Assam. Let us discuss here why Dihing Patkai is unique and why sacrificing this forest to developmental needs is a wrong idea.

The Amazon of the East

The Dehing Patkai forms the largest stretch of tropical lowland rainforest of India. It falls under Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot. It is also referred as “The Amazon of East” because its cover a large area of thick rainforest existing in Assam. The Dehing Patkai is located within a radius of about 25 km from the the township of Digboi, falling in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh district of Assam. It is bordered by Arunachal Pradesh in the South and covers a total area of about 111.19 sq. km of forest.

Photo: Niranjan Nayak

The name Dehing Patkai is derived from two entities, the river Dehing which runs through the natural region and from the Patkai foothills on the Southern part that connects this region with the Eastern Himalayas. It is a part of the Assam valley tropical wet evergreen forests covering a total 800 area of three combined rainforests, namely Jeypore, Upper Dehing and Dirok Rainforests. Add