The Global Digest

Travel and Hotel

Saving the Amazon of East

Special Contribution
By Nava Thakuria

Northeast India's forest

One can say, environmentally conscious people live in Assam and hence public outcries against hydroelectric projects or mining approvals in forestlands are natural to invite media attentions. The recent public mobilization against the rampant open cast coal mining in rainforests was natural to happen, but its tame end indicates that the uprising was not properly focused.

The uproar in the time of nationwide Covid-19 lockdown was stared in the social media and soon it expanded to the mainstream media outlets. With an aim to safeguard a forest reserve, large numbers of environmental enthusiasts, celebrities, social activists, media personalities, etc of the country came out with the opposition to the lease for extracting coal by the Union government in New Delhi. An initial apprehension was that the new lease for coal mining would destroy Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary under the designated Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve lying under the Eastern Himalayas and the Indo-Burma global biodiversity hotspots, which is known as Amazon of the East. Most of the agitators found it difficult to understand why the mining was ‘approved inside a sanctuary’, which is legally protected under India’s Wildlife Protection Act 1972.

But soon an active conservation group named Nature’s Beckon came out with strong statements that the movement was not based on facts as Dehing Patkai sanctuary was totally safe and there was no mining proposal inside the rainforest. Soumyadeep Datta, who leads the influential group, clarified that the Saleki Proposed Reserve Forest, where conditional mining was approved by the Centre is far away from Dehing Patkai sanctuary. Later the State government in Dispur also authenticated the fact. Datta, who is an Ashoka fellow, released a video statement asserting that some elements were misleading the people with wrong information about the mining of underground coal inside the sanctuary. He pointed out that those motivated elements played words while cunningly shifting its focus from Dehing Patkai wildlife sanctuary to Dehing Patkai elephant reserve. They kept on hiding the vital information that coal mining was legal under any elephant reserve as it is not protected under the wildlife protection laws.

Earlier, a good number of campaigners raised voices to preserve the sanctuary through their posts in Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc with slogans like ‘I am Dehing Patkai’, ‘Save Dehing Patkai from Coal Mafia’, ‘Save Amazon of the East’, etc. They tried to convince the people that the sanctuary was in danger because of the proposed mining as it would make a negative impact on bio diversity, water & land resources. Not only the rainforest along with its wildlife, they argued, the mining would create troubles for various ethnic communities living around there for centuries. Members belonged to All Assam Students’ Union, Krishak Mukti Sangram Samity along with other civilian outfits, opposition political leaders, defenders of nature, non-government organization activists launched the online campaign arguing that it was difficult to organize immediate visible rallies because of the countrywide shutdown. Even the banned armed outfit named United Liberation Front of Assam (Independent) also came out with the threatening statement to attack anyone who would come for mining there.

A group of 300 conscious citizens of northeast India also wrote to the federal environment & forest ministry expressing concerns over the approval of coal mining at 98.59 hectare of land inside Saleki reserve forest under Dehing Patkai elephant reserve. They claimed that the mining in Dehing Patkai forest region would severely affect ethnic groups like Tai Phake, Khamyang, Khampti, Singpho, Nocte, Ahom, Koibarta, Moran & Motok, Tea-tribes, Burmese & Nepali speaking people, etc in their livelihood and existences. The history of open-cast coal mining in Saleki locality is a century old story, where the government-run Coal India Limited (CIL) continues extracting coal for national needs. The coal authority maintained its operations in northeastern region through North Eastern Coalfields, which came into existence in 1975 with the headquarter at Margherita of eastern Assam. The current lease of CIL expired in 2003 and it applied for the renewal of the lease.

However, CIL was unable to get the clearance till 2012 even though it simultaneously carried out mining in the area for all the years. Lately, the State government under its forest regulation Act 1891 imposed a penalty of Rs 432.5 million on CIL for the unauthorised mining inside the elephant reserve between 2003 and 2019. The coal authority applied for the lease in 2013 and again in 2019 to mine at Tikok colliery, which was forwarded by the province government to the Centre. Reacting to the public outcries, the State environment & forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya, who visited the location following the direction of chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, clarified that the concerned mining field is not a part of Dehing Patkai sanctuary. He also stated that the mining was not approved in Tikok colliery since October last year and the authority seized around 5,000 metric ton coal from that location by the end of 2019.

National Board for Wildlife under the federal environment & forest ministry gave a provisional clearance to extract coal in its last meeting held on 7 April 2020 under the chairmanship of Union environment, forest and climate change minister Prakash Javadekar through the video conference arrangements as the pandemic lockdown continued. However, the meeting put many conditions to the coal authority under the Forest Conservation Act 1980. CIL and the State forest department have to fulfill 28 conditions and the compliance report would be placed before the federal government for Stage II clearance. Only after the clearance, coal mining operations could start. Presently a conditional clearance was granted to the coal authority, added the minister.

Meanwhile, some advocate and environment enthusiasts knocked the door of Gauhati High Court for its intervention against the clearance. The court issued notices to the federal and province governments, CIL along with other stakeholders for their responses. Lately the coal authority had temporarily suspended all mining operations in Margherita locality since 3 June. Even though there was no place called Dehing Patkai, rather it was derived from Dehing/ Dihing (a river flows through it) and Patkai (the hill which supports the forest), the province government declared a patch of rainforest with 111.19 square kilometer area as Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary on 13 June 2004. Seventeen other forest reserves of Assam also got the status simultaneously.

The sanctuary on the south bank of mighty Brahmaputra river today houses a large number of Asiatic elephants with over 290 species of bird, 50 species of butterfly, 45 species of mammal, 25 species of reptile, 70 species of fish, thousands species of insects, 60 varieties of orchid, etc. Thousands of species of trees like Hollang, Mekai, Dhuna, Udiyam, Nahar, Samkothal, Bheer, Hollock, Elephant-apple, Fig, etc keep the forest cool and humid. Various species of wild cats (including tiger, leopard, clouded leopard, leopard cat, golden cat, jungle cat and marbled cat), non-human primates (including rhesus macaque, Assamese macaque, slow loris, capped langur, pigtailed macaque, stumptailed macaque, hoolock gibbon), are also seen with Chinese pangolin, flying fox, wild boar, sambar, barking deer, gaur, serow, malayan giant squirrels, porcupine, etc.

Rare bird species like lesser adjutant stork, white winged wood duck, white backed vulture, slender billed vulture, white cheeked hill partridge, khaleej pheasant, grey peacock pheasant, rufus necked hornbill, wreathed hornbill, great pied hornbill, beautiful nuthatch, black browed leaf wabler, green imperial pigeon, purple wood pigeon, etc with king cobra, rock python, Asian leaf turtle, monitor lizard, etc are found there. It was Nature’s Beckon that launched a massive campaign in 1994 to protect 500 sq km of contiguous pristine forest cover comprising Joypur reserve forest, upper Dehing/Dihing reserve forest and Dirak reserve forest in eastern Assam’s districts namely Dibrugarh and Tinsukia adjoining Deomali elephant reserve of neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh. The group also organized an international rainforest festival at Joypur in presence of concerned representatives from 12 different countries.

But the Tarun Gogoi led Congress government ignored the movement, which was morally supported by a large number of wildlife conservationists, wildlife biologists, intelligentsias around the world, and announced only 111.19 sq km area as a sanctuary leaving. The rest was declared as Dehing Patkai elephant reserve keeping space for mining coal-oil, queries, sand-land cutting, logging etc. “We believe it was because of the influence of coal and timber lobbies, the government did not include the entire area under the sanctuary. Amazingly, the then State forest minister Pradyut Bardoloi, now a Parliamentarian, has released video footages trying to establish rampant coal mining inside the Dehing Patkai forest reserve,” said Datta adding that propagandists in the last few weeks cried that the coal mining was approved by both the governments in Dispur and New Delhi.

Claiming that rumours about the coal mining inside Dehing Patkai sanctuary is a part of huge conspiracies, Datta also opined that if CIL could be defunct, not only its 20,000 workers would face difficulties, but also the coal mafia (illegal miners) would take advantages out of the situation. The member of Centre’s project elephant committee Datta revealed that the coal has a significant demand for nearly 300 tea-plantations, thousands of brick factories and market places.

Appreciating everyone who expressed concerns over the mining inside the sanctuary, the nature conservation group reiterates its old demand to declare the entire 500 sq km area of contiguous rainforests should be preserved under the wildlife protection laws. The conservation group, which published several books like ‘Rainforests of Assam’, ‘Dihing Patkai Abhyaranya’, ‘Namchangor Antespur’ with thousands of awareness brochures, urged the present government to expand the area of Dehing Patkai sanctuary judiciously covering the adjacent rainforests. Various other organizations like Patriotic People’s Front Assam, Indigenous Council Assam, Brihattar Asomiya Mohila Mancha, Sanmilita Sangbadik Mancha, etc also come forward endorsing the conservation movement of Nature’s Beckon and urged the Sarbananda Sonowal led BJP government to declare the entire Dehing Patkai forest reserve as a protected area under the concerned laws of the country as early as possible.

The author is a northeast India based environment journalist

A Day Trip to Jeongseon(Gangwon-do)

At the Folk Village

A group of foreigners have a Day Trip to Jeongseon(Gangwon-do) on June 17, 2018. Where you can feel what it was like to live in the Joseon Times at a Confucian School. A group visited to Jeongseon Temple Confucian School with Confucian temple, Jeongseon Arirang Tea ceremony and Calligraphy experiences. They also get to discover one of Korea's most renowned Jeongseon's renowned 5 Day Market Place and Jeongseon Araricheon Folk Village. The visitors learned about the Yangban noble culture of the Joseon Times & enjoy just wondering around the beautiful surrounding....See more photos


At the festival

2018 Sancheoneo Ice Festival held in Hwacheon-Gun, Gangwon-Do, South Korea until the end of January. It is famous for Sancheoneo and Otter's home, and clean nature. It has been called one of the 'Seven winter wonders of the world'....See more photos

Trip to East Sea and Oriental Medicine EXPO

Medicine Expo

2017 International Korean Medicine Bio Industry Expo in Jecheon, Korea from September 22nd to October 10th. The theme of “Recreation of Korean Medicine-Evolve into the Korean Medicine Bio Industry.” Chungbuk, which focused on the bio industry from the early days, has completed the world-class bio-infrastructure, and Jecheon is concentrating on the development and nurturing of oriental natural product resources....See more photos

Visit to Incheon Ferry Port

At Incheon Ferry Port

Alongside Incheon International Airport, Incheon Port has established itself as a major international hub of transport around northwest Asia. Belonging to a coastal city in the northwest of South Korea, Incheon Port provided a significant economic boost to South Korea when it opened its port to the rest of the world, creating mass revenue for the tourism and business industries. The population of 3 million, its proximity to the capital city of Seoul and its recent title as South Korea’s Free Economic Zone have all contributed to transform Incheon into a place that thrives on business adventure and innovation. There are already copious ferry routes in operation at Incheon Port, a large selection of them linking South Korea with China. The distance between the two countries is up to 24 hours.

Much like the area surrounding the port, the vessels used to carry passengers on the long-haul sailings are of a very high quality; excellent restaurants, cool bars and tranquil bedrooms are all available on board, making for a stress free crossing. There are buses from the Incheon train station that run to the ferry terminal, as well as an abundance of taxis around the city centre....See more photos

Miryang Arirang Festival

At Miryang Festival

Miryang Arirang Festival held from May 18 to 21, 2017 at Areas of Yeongnamru Pavilion and Miryang riverside, in Gyeongsangnam-do, South Korea. Miryang Arirang Festival celebrates an intangible heritage, which is registered under UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

At the event ceremonies, many program including horseback martial arts performance, street parade, Arirang singing contest. Moreover, an adventure to explore the festival and historical temple areas in the local area, the scavenger hunt,etc.

There will be a variety of Korean food options ranging from Korean noodle dishes, seafood pasta, pork and vegetables, etc. See more event photos:

Templestay experience

There is a traditional-style accommodations of a famous Korean temple called Pyochungsa Temple about 20 minutes away from the festival. These are traditional monk quarters. They have heated floors, thick blankets and pillows. The blankets can act as kind of a comfy futon.

At 3am, the temple comes to life at that time and monks start beginning their morning rituals. Anyone is welcome to join and practice their rituals. And free breakfast available at the temple, but is served in accordance with temple tradition, and it will only be served between 6-7am.

A Trip to The Busan Museum

In front of Busan Museum

The Busan Museum, offers seven regular exhibition rooms spread over three floors in addition to the Kiln Exhibition Hall, and the Outdoor Exhibition Hall. Opened in 1978, the museum has taken on a leading role in preserving traditional culture in Busan by obtaining a wealth of relics from strong excavation efforts, generous donations and purchases, and by meticulous research....See more photos

ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating

The Gangneung Ice Arena

ISU World Cup Short Track Speed Skating held on 16 - 18 Dec 2016 in Gangneung Republic of Korea. The competitions was conducted in accordance with the 2016 ISU Regulations and relevant Communications. Participation is open to all ISU Members. This competition is part of the ISU World Cup Short Track2016/17....See more photos

A Trip to Hwaseong Fortress

At Hwaseong Fortress site

Hwaseong Fortress is an impressive structure from the latter part of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) and the official fortress of Suwon-si, Gyeonggi-do. The fortress (constructed from 1794 to 1796) was built as a show of the King’s filial piety towards his father Jangheonseja and to build a new pioneer city with its own economic power....See more photos

Jeongseon Arirang Festival Oct 1-4, 2016

At Jeongseon Arirang Festival site

Jeongseon Arirang, a traditional folk song in Korea is to represent the sorrowful feeling of Korea and Jeongseon county in Gangwon is the original place of Arirang song and has developed the song throughout generations. Main performance, singing contest, planned event, subsidiary event and performance, traditional cultural experience, modern culture experience, traditional culture interchange, created performance, exhibition, promotion, etc. In addition, Jeongseon Arirang calligraphy contest, national writing contest, drawing contest, children’s art madang, dance contest, K-POP dance competition, archery contest, students’ music performance, Nakdong farming music performance, fusion Korean music performance, musical, multicultural food and traditional costume experience, etc....See more photos of Jeongseon Arirang Festival

A Trip to Ulleungdo island

At the Dodong Harbor

Ulleungdo is located in South Korea, the east longitude 130° 54´, the north latitude 37° 29.´ It's 217km to Pohang and 178km to Gangneung. A pentagon island made of volcanic rocks. Establishing a watershed from the center of Seonginbong Peak (984m above the sea level). Mountains are precipitous most of land is slanting except for Nari Basin.

You can visit Ulleungdo island from such as popular locations Pohang Ferry Terminal and Gangneung Ferry Terminal. It takes around 3 hours to reach Ulleungdo.

From Ulleungdo, you can also visit Dokdo island, appromately 2 hours to reach there....See more photos of Ulleungdo

A trip to Gangneung Dano Festival and Gyeongpo Beach

At the Dano Festival

The Gangneung Danoje Festival takes place in the town of Gangneung and its surroundings, situated east of the Taebaek Mountain Range on the Korean peninsula. According to UNESCO website, the festival praises the mountain deity and male and female tutelary deities through a shamanistic ritual on Daegwallyeong Ridge, and encompasses traditional music and Odokddegi folk songs, the Gwanno mask drama, oral narrative poetry as well as various popular pastimes.

The annual, May-June four-week long festival commences with the brewing of the sacred liquor on the fifth day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar and with the Dano shamanistic rituals, in which a central role is played by the sacred tree, the sinmok, and the hwagae, a ritual object made of feathers, bells and bamboo wood.

First mentioned in a third century Chinese manuscript, the festival, in its present form, includes elements, which were later described in the Record of Imyeong, published during the time of Joseon King Gyeongjong (1720-1724).

One of its specific features is the co-existence of Confucian sacrificial rites, shamanistic rituals and Buddhist rituals. Through the rituals devoted to the deities, the region is believed to remain unaffected by potential natural disasters, allowing all its residents to live in peace and prosperity. Every year, a large number of visitors attend the various ritual performances and actively participate in events such as making the Danoje festival fans, brewing the sacred liquor, drawing masks for the Gwanno Mask Drama, making and eating surichiwi rice crackers and washing one’s hair in Iris water.

The Nanjang market, Korea’s largest outdoor marketplace, is today another element of the festival, where local products and handicrafts are sold and contests, games and circus performances take place.

Gyeongpo Beach


2015 - 2016 Apr
2010 - 2014