|Manas National Park
Guwahati, June 20: An Indo-Bhutan festival is being planned for October this year to strengthen the centuries-old affinity and friendship between the neighbours with an environmental bonding.
The move comes on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to Bhutan.
The Indo-Bhutan Transboundary Festival will highlight the Manas conservation landscape, which runs through India and Bhutan, as a “peace park” and showcase its unique biological and cultural diversity, said Sonali Ghosh, deputy director of Manas tiger reserve. She hoped the festival would be an annual feature.
The concept of peace parks, promoted by international organisations, is a multifaceted approach to jointly manage natural resources across political boundaries.
Ghosh said the festival would not only create conservation awareness, increased sensitivity about forest cover and afforestation, especially in view of the rapid encroachments along Manas on the Indian side, but would also build an eternal friendship between India and Bhutan through an environmental bonding.
A meeting was held yesterday at Bansbari range in Manas to promote transboundary Manas conservation. It was attended by officials and representatives of various NGOs. Ghosh said local authorities had assured them of support.
The Indo-Bhutan Manas conservation landscape is the second largest protected landscape for tigers in the world. The unique landscape is home to some rare and critically endangered and endemic flora and fauna such as pygmy hog, Bengal florican, great one-horned rhino, Bengal tigers, elephants, golden langurs and Hispid hare.
“We are planning to make the Manas transboundary festival a weeklong affair in October and a website will be launched on it next month,” the official said.
A meeting between the border district administrations of the two countries is being scheduled to work out the modalities. Efforts will be made to invite the ambassadors of both the countries.
“The festival may have three venues, mainly in Baksa district and a couple of possible venues in Bhutan,” Ghosh said.
An Indo-Bhutan Manas conservation flag will also be hoisted at select border locations by key conservation ambassadors of both nations.
A nature interpretation centre and an arboretum-cum-medicinal plants’ garden will be opened. Activities like elephant procession and artists/writers’ workshop on nature writing is also being lined up.
Sources said it would have been better if there was a memorandum of understanding on wildlife cooperation between the two countries. Though there have been meetings, including a bilateral one last year, nothing concrete has come out of it.