Acknowledging the great revival story, UNESCO has removed the ‘danger tag’ imposed on the famous Manas National Park of Assam 19 years ago, following significant improvement in wildlife conservation.
The decision to remove the ‘danger tag’ was announced during the ongoing 35th session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee in Paris.
“Significant improvements in the preservation of Manas Wildlife Sanctuary have allowed for its withdrawal from the World Heritage List in Danger,” the Committee said.
Situated on the foothills of the Himalayas, the Manas sanctuary, home to a great variety of wildlife, including many endangered species, such as tiger, pygmy hog, one-horn rhinoceros and elephant, was inscribed in the List of Danger in 1992, seven years after it had entered UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The Committee noted that the outstanding universal value, for which Manas was inscribed in the World Heritage list, was “recovering from damages sustained during ethnic unrest” in the site.
It had decided to include this site in the danger when the park became a safe haven for militants and there was rampant poaching inside it, with damages estimated over USD two million.
“India scores a winning goal for Manas,” said Jagdish Kishwan, Additional Director General (Wildlife), who led the Indian delegation at the session.
“Inscription of a site in the List of World Heritage in Danger has two sides to it. One, it draws global attention to the problems faced by the site, which is beneficial; the second, it indicates a pending threat that the site could be deleted as a World Heritage completely if appropriate measures are not taken to restore it,” said Vivek Menon, executive director of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), and another member of the delegation.
The turnaround in Manas’ fate came about in early 2000s.
The political situation in the area began improving and culminated in the creation of the Autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) under the Bodo Accord (February 2003).
Since then, there have been concerted efforts by the government and locals assisted by committed NGOs and individuals to revive Manas.
Under the ‘Bringing Back Manas’ initiative of the BTC and the Assam forest department in collaboration with the International Fund for Animal Welfare and WTI, Greater Manas was declared, tripling its area.
The protection and management of Manas was enhanced through training of front line staff, provision of equipment and facilitating and encouraging involvement of local communities in conservation.
“Assam has been setting examples in wildlife conservation for the entire world to follow.
First, the biggest conservation success story of the century in Kaziranga National Park and now it is the revival of Manas,” said Assam’s Chief Wildlife Warden Suresh Chand who was also a member of the Indian delegation.
The decision on the World Heritage status of Manas was an outcome of voting by 22 member countries to the World Heritage Committee.
An independent review on the status was done by the IUCN to apprise the Committee on the present situation in Manas.
“We have seen Manas change over the past several years, and now the world knows it.
This will get better, but only if the local people actively help authorities in conservation.
Without the continued support of the people, this could not have been possible and without their support this cannot be sustained,” said Kampa Borgoyari, deputy chief of BTC.