Assam: 800 trees chopped off to pave way for laying down of Oil India pipeline in Dehing Patkai National Park

Assam: 800 trees chopped off to pave way for laying down of Oil India pipeline in Dehing Patkai National Park

Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary was officially recognised as a national park by the government on June 9, 2021. But even after getting the recognition of the national park, many questions have been raised about the safety of Dehing Patkai forest and its wild inmates. In the latest development, nearly 800 trees have been felled to pave way for the laying down of pipelines through the forest.

The state's forest department which has been designated the key role of looking after the security of the national park, raises serious issues as the recent clearing of the forest areas for commercial purposes to thwart claims of the department’s responsibility of protecting the national park.

At a time when the forest department should have given more importance to the safety and protection of the national park and its vibrant species of birds and animals, instead the destruction has already begun under the patronage of the forest department.

Two pipelines have already been installed for the supply of crude oil and natural gas from Digboi to Madhuban in Duliajan.
A company called PMC under Oil India Limited has started the work of laying pipelines. But the process has now sent a warning signal to Dehing Patkai National Park. The installation of a pipeline along the Digbai-Duliajan link road, the heart of the national park, poses a serious threat to the animals as well as the rich biodiversity. There is a risk that the corridor which serves as the habitat and navigation route for the wild and exotic species of animals and birds such as wild elephants and Hoolock Gibbons, will be blocked after the pipelines are laid.

As per a notice released by the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, Government of India on March 30, 2022, the state government had proposed for diversion of 13.43 ha of forest land for the laying of the underground Oil & Gas pipeline portion of the Duliajan-Digboi road in Upper Dehing Reserve Forest (West Block) under Digboi Forest Division in favour of Oil India Ltd.

After ‘a careful examination of the state government’s proposal and on the basis of the recommendations of the Regional Empowered Committee on March 16, 2022, the central government granted the diversion of 13.43 hectares of forest land for laying of underground Oil & Gas pipeline portion of Duliajan-Digboi road.

The notice released by the ministry also mentions conditions that the state forest department has to comply with before moving ahead with the oil pipeline laying project which includes the state government submitting the approved wildlife mitigation and conservation plan and ensuring its strict implementation as the proposed area is in Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve. Also, the user agency shall deposit 2 per cent of the project cost for the wildlife mitigation and conservation plan.
Additionally, an annual compliance certificate on the stipulated conditions of the wildlife mitigation and conservation plan shall be submitted by the project proponent to the State Chief Wildlife Warden and an annual compliance certificate shall be submitted by the State Chief Wildlife warden to the concerned Integrated Regional Office of Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change.

The notice also highlights the condition of the state government making it mandatory for them to obtain Environment Clearance as per the provision of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986, if applicable.
Oil India remained unreachable while India TodayNE tried to contact them on their stand with regard to the destruction of the forest cover in Dehing Patkai National Park.

It is worth mentioning that the initial process of setting up these pipelines has cost several valuable trees being felled. On top of this, the floor of the national park will also be dug up to two feet for the laying of a canal to install a pipeline. The question of how well-protected the wild animals of the Dehing Patkai National Park area has been raised by environmentalists and nature lovers.

According to the information, permission has been given to cut 850 trees in the Digboi forest area for the purpose of installing the pipeline.
Meanwhile, environmentalists and activists have criticized the forest department for their lack of knowledge and protecting the interest of Oil India. 

Local people and nature lovers have also alleged that the use of excavators, generators, etc., used for the installation of pipelines, has vitiated the atmosphere of the national park.

A local while speaking to the media lamented the situation and said, “Known as the Amazon of the East, Dehing Patkai Reserve forest which was designated as a national park two years ago, is already witnessing the destruction of its green cover as Oil India is cutting off trees for laying of oil pipelines through the forest. If you see, the government has yet not begun the demarcation work in the forest. No facilities are provided if tourists visit the national park. No guest lodge, and no tourist resting area has been developed near the forest. Instead of developing the infrastructure of the forest, the government instead gave the green light to Oil India to cut-off trees in the national park to lay down pipelines. Not only this, there will be enormous trouble, and blockade to the elephant corridor, which will hinder problems for the movement of the elephants and other animals. Hence the locals earnestly request the state government, Oil India and the forest department to rethink their decision and stop this destruction of the forest cover.”