By – Sneha Saikia
As well as the vivid beauty that comes with great diversity in plants and animals, rainforests also play a practical role in keeping our planet healthy. By absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing the oxygen that we depend on for our survival. The absorption of this CO2 also helps to stabilize
the Earth’s climate.
Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the Dibrugarh and Tinsukia Districts of Assam and covers an area of 111.19 km2 .It is located in the Dehing patkai landscape which is a dipterocarp-dominated lowland rainforestThe rainforest stretches for more than 575 km2 in the districts of Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Charaideo.
The forest further spreads over in the Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh. Dehing is the name of the river that flows through this forest and Patkai is the hill at the foot of which the sanctuary lies.The Dehing Patkai forms the largest stretch of lowland rainforests in India. It was declared a sanctuary on 13 June 2004.The Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary was declared as Dehing-Patkai Elephant Reserve under Project Elephant. The Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary is also known as the Jeypore Rainforest.
State government of Assam organized a festival for the forest Dehing patkai. The Dehing patkai festival is once in a year festival held at Lekhapani in Tinsukia district of Assam. The festival is named after the majestic patkai range and the mischievous Dehing patkai. This provide the tourists with boundless chances for fun and feast.
The climate of region is mostly tropical with monthly rainfall of at least 60mm. Annual precipitation is more than 4,000mm.There are 119 to 164 rainy days per year. The temperature reaches a Peak in June and falls with the arrival of monsoons. The average temperature ranges from 6°C to 38°C.
The Dehing Patkai is one of the richest spots for biodiversity in India.The different trees of this four-layered rainforest are laden with many exotic species of orchids and bromeliads. There is an abundance of ferns, epiphytes, wild banana, orchids, arums, climbers and lianas in this humid forest habitat.
It has hundreds of plant species which range from the Dipterocarpus retusus, occupying the top canopy of the forest at heights of 50 m, to Mesua ferrea and Vatica lanceaefolia, which dominate the middle canopy, and a number of woody shrubs such as Saprosma ternatum, Livistonia jenkinsiana and Calamus erectus, which constitute the undergrowth.
Dipterocarpus retusus or Hollong, the state tree of Assam dominates the forest while the forest floor is home to charismatic ground orchids. Some of the important tree species found in the forest area are – Hollong, Mekai (Shorea assamica), Dhuna, Nahar, Gurjan (Dipterocarpus tubinatus), Samkothal, Outenga (elephant apple) different species of Ficus, Uriyam, Bheer, Hollock, Nahor, different species of Dimoru etc.
The forests are wet tropical evergreen Assam valley forests Dehing Patkai is also an important biodiversity spot for its range of orchid species. There are around 107 species of orchid in this region. Some of the orchids found in this region are Bulbophylum ebulbum, Chrysoglossum erraticum, Chrysoglossum robinsonii, Eria connate, E. pudica, Zeuxine clandestine, Hetaeria affinis, Thelasis pygmaea, Taeniophyllum crepidiforme etc
The important species of over wood are Dipterocarpus macrocarpus, Mesua ferrea, Castanopsis indica, Shorea assamica, Vatica lanceaefolia, Amoora wallichii, Dysoxylum binectiferum etc. The other species found in understorey are Garcinia lanceifolia, Michelia muni, Baccaurea sapida, Bischofia javanica, Myristica limifolia etc.
The shrub and herb layer has Glochidion spp., Alpinia spp., Mallotus philippinensis, wild banana, tree fern, pepper etc. The ground cover mainly has Melastoma, Leea and other species.
Dehing Patkai landscape is a critical refuge for biodiversity as it provides habitat for species of most conservation concern at the sub-national level in India and species that are identified under the “International Union for Conservation of Nature”(IUCN) Red List. There is a wide variety of wildlife found in the landscape with as many as 47 species of mammals, 13 species of lizards, 50 species of snakes, few rare and threatened turtle species, more than 350 species of butterflies etc.
There are also seven species of primates found in the forest – Western hoolock gibbon, Rhesus macaque, Assamese macaque, pig-tailed macaque, Stump-tailed macaque, Slow loris, and Capped langur. It is also home to mammals like Asian Elephants, Rhinos, Chinese pangolin, Himalayan black bear, Black giant squirrel, Porcupine, Crab-eating mongoose, sambar, Sun bear, Barking deer, Wild water buffalo etc.
It was the first place in the world to have presence of seven different species of wild cats in the world -Tiger, Leopard, Clouded leopard, Leopard cat, Golden cat, Jungle cat and Marbled cat.
The Dihing Patkai is also known as “Avian Diversity”. From some reports there are almost 500 species of birds. A majority of these bird species are resident species. Some of the important bird species found in the area includes- Slender-billed vulture, White-winged Duck (State bird Assam), Greater Adjutant Stork, Lesser Adjutant Stork, Greater Spotted Eagle, Gray Peacock-Pheasant, Rufous-necked hornbill, Pale-capped Pigeon, brown hornbill, yellow-vented warbler, Oriental darter, osprey, kalij pheasant, besra, black baza and hill myna. etc
CULTURAL or ETHIC GROUPS
The Dehing Patkai Landscape lies within a mosaic of tea plantations, farmlands and oil and coalfields .The Dehing Patkai Forest region has a rich cultural heritage. There are more than a dozen different ethnic groups living in the area including the indigenous Assam communities, particularly Tai Phake, Khamyang, Khampti, Singpho, Nocte, Chutia, Ahom, Kaibarta, Moran and Motok, Burmese, and non-indigenous Nepali people. Tea-tribes were brought by the British to work in the tea plantations.
Dehing-Patkai landscape has been a site for legal and illegal coal mining. In April 2020, a coal mining project in the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve was approved by the National Board for Wildlife of India. Nearly a hundred hectares of land from reserve forest land was approved for a coal mining project by North-Easter Coal Field (NECF), a unit of Coal India Limited. This
decision was challenged by environmental groups from Assam and other parts of the country, which highlighted the rich biodiversity harboured in the Dehing Patkai landscape. As a result An environment activist has alleged that the North Eastern Coalfields (NEC) has been carrying out illegal coal mining inside Dehing Patkai elephant reserve in Assam’s Tinsukia district. The application alleged that the NEC had been carrying out mining without obtaining clearance under Forest (Conservation) Act. As a national park, its importance will increase and new rules will bring increased vigilance to the area. While the first proposal to accord national park status to the region dates back to 1995, Dehing Patkai was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 2004.
The oldest refinery of Asia in Digboi and ‘open cast’ coal mining at Lido are located near the sanctuary. It is famous for Assam Valley Tropical Wet Evergreen Forests bordering Arunachal Pradesh.
The Assam government has decided to upgrade Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary into a National Park. The announcement comes just months after the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) gave conditional clearance to a coal mining project by Coal India Limited (CIL) in the Dehing Patkai
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Image Credit – Tinsukia Online
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