People from seven villages residing near Diyung river in Haflong in Assam’s Dima Hasao district staged a day-long sit-in protest on Friday, August 21 against the extraction of stones from the river.
The protest was organised at the shore of Diyung river near the New Haflong railway station. The protesters later submitted a memorandum to the principal secretary to the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council citing their demands for the immediate stoppage of the mining. The villagers, belonging to areas which have been severely affected by river mining, have also demanded stringent action against those involved in the mining activities.
The stone mining activities in the Diyung river began after the activation of the BG route in the district in 2015, a regional daily, The Sentinel reported. It is also being alleged that the stones are being transported to Manipur, Tripura and other states for construction purposes, the report added.
Interestingly, the NCHAC CEM had said during his Independence Day speech that he will not allow the export of stones outside the district.
The Diyung river which provides 50% water supply to the district has been severely affected by the stone mining activities. The water has receded and the aquatic life of the river has been affected, according to the people staying near the river. This has also affected the livelihood of the villagers, most of whom are dependent on the river, for fishing. The villagers were also dependent on the wages earned breaking stones which are used for construction in localities.
Also read: Did Modi Govt Tweak Green Laws to Allow Oil and Gas Exploration in Assam’s Rainforests?
The latest protest comes after illegal stone mining activities at Panimur, an important tourist spot in Dima Hasao, had created a stir in the state. Several organisations had written to the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council (NCHAC), Assam chief executive member Debolal Gorlosa demanding stern action against the illegal mining at the site. The organisations had also urged the CEM to look into installation of stone crasher machine near New Haflong.
Illegal stone mining activities have been a bone of contention between the local residents and the administration for long in the hill districts of Assam.
Previously, in February this year, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) constituted by the Supreme Court to look into environment-related matters had directed the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) and Head of the Forest Force (HOFF), Assam to clarify as to who and how the Divisional Forest Officer of East Karbi Anglong was authorised to grant permission for stone mining activities.
The sites where the stone mining activities in East Karbi Anglong Forest Division are going on are close to Kaziranga National Park (KNP) and Tiger Reserve. The CEC had also suggested that stone mining activities should be relocated to sites where such activities can be carried out without destroying the forests, and are located outside the wildlife habitats.
Because of the East Karbi Anglong Division stone mining sites’ proximity to KNP, stone mining and crushing activities in this forest division have become a hotly debated subject. Another report on the Tiger census of 2018-19 had also highlighted the illegal mining activities in the hill districts of Assam to have affected the nearby tiger reserves. The report said, “Also mining and stone quarrying and stone crushing in Karbi Anglong hills are a matter of concern and the Assam government has already been requested to put a on mining in these sensitive areas.”
Also watch: 'EIA 2020 Is Disastrous'