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MANAS NATIONAL PARK


Conserving a unique biodiversity

Arunav Gupta

 Manas National Park on the borders of the Indo-Gangetic and Indo-Malayan biogeographical realms is the most diverse of India’s wildlife reserves. It lies on a gentle alluvial slope in the foothills of the Himalayas, where wooded hills give way to grasslands and tropical forest and is home to a great variety of wildlife, including many endangered species such as the tiger, the pygmy hog, and the Indian rhinoceros and elephant. One of the most exquisite National Parks in the Northeast of India, in the State of Assam, it is spread over the districts of Chirang and Baksa under the Bodoland Territorial Council and shares a boundary with the Royal Manas National Park of Bhutan. The National Park is also the core area of the Manas Tiger Reserve and also holds the distinction of being a Biosphere Reserve, an Elephant Reserve, an Important Bird Area (IBA) and a World Heritage Site.

The challenge of conservation of the unique biodiversity of Manas is great, given the multiple issues which affect the National Park. The Park has not remained unaffected by the political and ethnic conflict plaguing the region from time to time. The lack of development, unemployment and poverty in the region which together resulted in political and ethnic conflict, had gravely impacted Manas. The decade of the 80s and 90s saw massive unrest in the region and the Park and its surrounding areas bore the brunt of the chaos and the turmoil. Encroachment, poaching, illegal felling became rampant leading to loss of flora and fauna.

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However the situation has improved considerably since the last decade. Social and political order has returned to the region and the Park administration has been strengthened. The development needs of the local communities are being taken care of and efforts made to redress genuine grievances. Eco development initiatives are being taken up by the Park Authority in collaboration with NGOs in the fringe villages.  Local conservation groups comprising of youth volunteers has emerged as a positive development to the Park and bolstered the conservation initiative.

Even though there are many positive developments, the challenges and threats to the biodiversity of the National Park still loom large. Rising population in the fringe villages is a case of concern.  Moreover the local communities are still under developed and deprived of basic amenities. As level of education is poor in the area, most villagers are yet to gauge the importance of the rich biodiversity in the area. Without a vigilant local community, conservation of the rich biodiversity in the area can be difficult in the long run.

The future of conservation of the rich biodiversity of Manas lies in finding meaningful adjustments of the needs of all the stakeholders. The overall socio-political and economic scenario will continue to have an impact on the park.  Hence both challenges and opportunities are in plenty in the case of Manas. Whatever may be our conclusions, one thing is certain that Manas National Park will continue to attract the attention from far and wide owing to its unique biodiversity and scenic beauty.

Tourist information chart:

Administration:

Field Director, Manas Tiger Project

Deputy Director

Assistant Conservator of Forests

Range Officers

Frontline Forest Staff

Park Divisions:

Bansbari(Central Range)

Bhuyanpara(Eastern Range)

Panbari(Western Range)

Travel:

Road: Barpeta Road Town(20 km), Bongaigaon(60 km),

Guwahati(150km)

Rail: Barpeta Road, Bongaigaon & Guwahati Railway Stations

Air: LGBI International Airport, Guwahati

Accomodation:

Inspection Bunglows: Forest Department

Lodges & Cottages: Private owners & local ngos

Guest House: Tourism Department

Season of visit: Nov to April

Contact details:

Field Director, Manas Tiger Project

Bodoland Territorial Council, Govt of Assam

Barpeta Road-781315

Tel: +91 3666 261413

Email: fd.manastp@gmail.com

Website: www.worldheritagemanas.org

The writer can be reached at  shill_raj@yahoo.co.in

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