Manas – a biodiversity hotspot that serves as a National Park, a Tiger Reserve and an Elephant Reserve, was listed as a World Heritage site in 1985. In 1992, amidst the civil unrest of the 1980s and 90s, Manas was declared ‘in danger’ of losing the World Heritage status.
The decision to remove the ‘in danger’ tag was announced during the on-going 35th Session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) in Paris.
Manas was placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger due to severe damages to the ecosystem during the civil unrest.
“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, Regional Director – South Asia, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW –www.ifaw.org) and Executive Director, (WTI - www.wildlifetrustofindia.org), and a member of the Indian delegation to the Session.
Until now the WHC has deleted two sites from the World Heritage List altogether. These include the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary in Oman, delisted in 2007, and Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany, in 2009.
“Fortunately for Manas, this fate was averted, thanks to the local people, the government and the Forest Department authorities. IFAW-WTI is proud to have been of assistance and to have pioneered numerous conservation activities here under the initiative ‘Bringing Manas Back’ to its former glory,” Menon added.
The turnaround in Manas’ fate began in the early 2000s. The political situation in the area began improving and culminated in the creation of the Autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council under the Bodo Accord (February 2003). Since then, there have been concerted efforts by the governments and local people assisted by committed NGOs, INGOs and individuals to revive Manas.
Under the ‘Bringing Back Manas’ initiative of the government and the Forest Department in collaboration with IFAW– WTI, Greater Manas was declared, tripling its area. Likewise, the flagship greater one-horned rhino was reintroduced. The protection and management of Manas was enhanced through trainings of frontline staff, provision of equipment and facilitating and encouraging involvement of local communities in conservation.
The decision on the World Heritage status of Manas was made 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.