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Manas regaining lost ground, says survey - Recent assessment recommends restoring heritage site status to national park

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By ROOPAK GOSWAMI in Guwahati
  • Published 1.04.07
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Guwahati, April 1: Hope floats for Manas National Park as the date for a meeting of the World Heritage Committee to be held at Christchurch in New Zealand draws nearer.

News that a drop in felling and poaching and conservation methods has borne fruit inside the national park may even have some bearing on the June meeting which will deliberate whether to remove the “danger” tag from Manas which is now listed as a World Heritage Site in Danger.

The Unesco-IUCN mission to Manas in 2005 had asked India to conduct a fresh assessment of the national park.

The Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) was then asked by the ministry of environment and forests to conduct the survey and to review the outcomes of recent initiatives for its conservation. The institute has recommended removal of Manas from the Unesco World Heritage Sites in Danger list. Manas was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1985. However, socio-political instability in the region led Manas to be listed as a World Heritage Site in Danger in 1992.

“During the current survey, no fresh instances of felling were observed, which is a very positive development,” said the report on Rapid Assessment of Wildlife Values in Manas World Heritage Site, Assam.

The survey was conducted from November 22 to December 13, 2006. It said the assessment indicates the presence of a wide range of animal species, particularly tigers, elephants, gaurs, wild buffaloes, leopards and wild dogs in the national park.

“There has been a gradual reduction in the disturbance from humans at the park through stricter enforcement, comprehensive eco-development programmes and habitat management,” it said.

Moreover, with a drastic decline in poaching, the population of animals in the park is gradually increasing. “The initiatives to introduce rhinos are already under way. However, these need to be supported with funds and scientific inputs. Conditions are also ripe to re-introduce swamp deer,” the report said. It agreed that time constraint and dense vegetation hampered the survey.

The political issues have also largely been resolved. “This process has played a major role in bringing about a paradigm shift in the attitude of the people from exploitation to conservation,” it added. “Several NGOs have also come forward to implement conservation activities, which supplement the efforts of the forest department.”