Bhutan's help sought for restoring Manas National Park



Bhutan`s help sought for restoring Manas National Park Guwahati: In a bid to remove the tag of 'world heritage site-in-danger' from the Manas National Park, the Centre and Assam government have approached Bhutan for help in revival of the picturesque animal reserve.

The park has been languishing ever since it was declared a world heritage site-in-danger in 1992 after almost 95 per cent of its infrastructure and most animals were affected by the protracted Bodo agitation for a separate state.

In July last year, a last-ditch effort was made by the government at the Quebec meeting of the World Heritage Committee for withdrawal of the tag, but that too ended in a failure.

Since the park is divided into two parts -- the Manas National Park in Assam and the Royal Bhutan Sanctuary across the Manas river in Bhutan -- the government has approached the neighbouring country for speeding up conservation work.

"Yes, we have submitted a trans-border cooperation programme to the Royal Bhutan government as bigger animals like tigers and rhinos need additional habitat which is important for their long term conservation," park's director, A Swargiari, has said.

After the agitation ended and the Bodos achieved a Bodoland Territorial Council, several attempts were made to restore the pristine glory of Manas and make it a permanent World Heritage Site.

The park authorities are also upbeat as the World Heritage Site Monitoring Committee, which visited the park a couple of months back, has submitted a satisfactory report.

"The committee was satisfied with the measures taken in the last one and a half years towards restoration of the park's status as a world heritage site," the director said.

One of the biggest conservation success stories was the translocation of two full-grown rhinos from the Pabitora wildlife sanctuary, near here, to the park in April, last year.

The translocation was done under the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund and supported by the International Rhino Foundation and US Fish and Wildlife service.

As per the Rhino vision programme, as many as 40 rhinos are to be translocated to the Manas National Park from Kaziranga National Park, a world heritage site, and the Pabitora sanctuary which boasts of the highest concentration of rhinos.

Swargiari said the initiative was aimed at a population of 3000 rhinos in all the protected areas of the state.

He said as per the heritage committee regulation, the road network in the park is restored in order to enable the visitors to go deep inside the park and enjoy the beauty of flora and fauna.

The strength of the forest personnel has also gone up as well as the beat camps inside the park most of which were burnt down by miscreants during the Bodo agitation.

The people and the nearby villagers are also being involved as any conservation story is incomplete without the involvement of the people residing in the park's surrounding areas.

Swargiari said even poachers have turned protectors of the park and the forest department, which falls under the BTC, is contemplating to recruit some of them as forest guards.

''The local people, who earlier used to poach animals, have learnt the need for conservation and if they are recruited the park will be well protected as they have every knowledge of the park's nook and corner,'' he said.

Manas is about 176 km from Guwahati city and the Borjhar airport. The nearest railhead is Barpeta road from where a visitor can hire taxis to reach the park with a drive of just about an hour.

Bureau Report