Jorhat, July 6: The authorities at Manas National Park, which recently shed its World Heritage Site “in danger” tag, have launched a massive drive on conservation awareness among local people to restore the park to its past glory.
The forest department, in collaboration with the Bodoland Territorial Council and the International Fund for Animal Welfare-Wildlife Trust of India (IFAW-WTI), has erected hoardings in the BTC areas. A few hoardings have also been erected in Guwahati, including one at the Lokopriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport.
A park official said the hoardings would not only help in making the people aware of the importance of Manas as a World Heritage Site but would also in attracting more tourists to the national park.
“Our main aim is to involve the residents as it would be almost impossible to carry on our conservation efforts without them. The hoardings will also help people realise the importance of the national park,” A. Sargayari, the director of the park, told The Telegraph.
Manas, which is situated at the foothills of the Himalayas and extends to Bhutan, is one of the most sought after tourist spots in the Northeast. However, the park suffered a massive destruction during the peak of Bodo insurgency in the 1990s, forcing Unesco to list it under World Heritage Site in Danger.
The 19-year tag was removed last month in the 35th session of the Unesco’s World Heritage Committee meeting in Paris. Sashanka Barbaruah, an official of the Wildlife Trust of India who has been working for the welfare of Manas for several years now, said the hoardings had been erected mainly in the BTC areas of Bongaigaon, Barpeta Road, Bijni and Kokrajhar.
“The hoardings basically inform the people that the ‘in danger’ tag has been removed from the World Heritage site. The message will help create awareness among the people,” he said.
Barbaruah said the WTI has been working tirelessly for several years now to restore the past glory of the national park.
The NGO runs a mobile animal rescue centre near the park, like the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation near Kaziranga National Park.
The WTI in collaboration with the forest department had released five elephant calves in Manas in January this year. These calves were rescued from various locations and were subsequently raised at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation.
In 2006, rhinos were brought back to Manas. Barbaruah said in addition to conservation of rhinos, tigers and elephants, the IFAW-WTI had helped the forest department and BTC authorities in several community-based conservation programmes such capacity-building of frontline staff and support to grassroots NGOs.