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Panel to consider Manas danger tag
- National park’s fate to be decided at World Heritage Committee meet

Guwahati, July 31: After long years of wait, Manas finally has something to cheer about. The site will now be considered at the World Heritage Committee’s next session for removal from the World Heritage in Danger list.

“The site will be considered for removal from the list at the committee’s 35th session,” Mariam Kenza Ali, World Heritage conservation officer at IUCN, told The Telegraph by email from Brasilia, where the 34th meeting of World Heritage Committee is currently on.

She said there has been a change in the decision because of the new information submitted by the Indian delegation concerning the status of wildlife population.

The decision now also asks for an IUCN/ Unesco mission which will visit the site in spring 2011 and examine the data on wildlife population, to determine if the site is ready to come off the list.

Manas Wildlife Sanctuary was made World Heritage Site in 1985, but in 1992 it had to be put in the endangered category because of insurgency and various other factors.

Ali said IUCN is of the view that the site has made good progress and is ready to assist the government in analysing the results of wildlife monitoring and the surveys planned for 2010 and 2011, including a key tiger survey which is already being carried out.

As the government had not submitted the report on the state of conservation, requested by the World Heritage Committee at its 33rd session in Seville, Spain, the implementation of the corrective measures were difficult to assess.

However, IUCN has received reports from its network of scientists and members on certain aspects of the state of conservation of the property. The reports indicate that the park authorities, in collaboration with conservation NGOs, had recently developed wildlife monitoring techniques to maintain a database.

A number of conservation NGOs including Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Aaranyak and WWF-India, among others, will soon begin surveying the property’s tiger population and are currently monitoring the population of swamp deer, Hispid hare, Bengal florican, pygmy hog and the relocated one-horned rhinoceros.

The report says that the efforts to monitor wildlife population are welcome as these will be essential for demonstrating a clear upward trend in wildlife population. It will also allow a future decision on the removal of the property from the World Heritage in Danger list.

It further says that IUCN received reports of several local ecotourism groups building roads and other infrastructure within the property without the park authorities’ permission.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recommend that the government should monitor the activities of these groups and increase control of vehicle movement. They recall the 2008 reactive monitoring mission’s recommendation to build a regional vision for its tourism development. “This has been taken care of now,” a park official in Manas told The Telegraph.

The IUCN has also received reports that the Sashastra Seema Bal on the Indo-Bhutan border is attempting to set up base camps within the property. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that instability and presence of insurgent groups in the past were the origin of increased poaching incidences, which led to the inscription of the property on the list of World Heritage in Danger. They recommend that the governnment continue its efforts to ban these camps.

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