manas impresses iucn

Guwahati, Jan. 30: The Unesco-IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) monitoring mission which ended its on-the-spot assessment of Manas National Park yesterday, seems to have been “impressed” with the progress made by the park.
“There has been a vast and visible improvement made by the park in respect to wildlife,” Ram Boojh from Unesco-India, who is a member of the monitoring mission, told The Telegraph today.
The team reached Manas on January 25, visited the park and held consultations with a wide cross-section of people and authorities. They did some rafting, too. The other two members were Sue Mainka and Remco van Merm from IUCN. “We saw rhinos, golden langur, and a number of birds,” Boojh said.
The World Heritage Committee had said, “The presence of viable populations of all major species and a clear upward trend of these populations are the key elements of the desired state of conservation for the removal of the property from the List of World Heritage in Danger.”
The team held discussions with the state forest department here and will be holding meetings with the ministry of environment and forests in Delhi before sitting down to finalise the report. The team left for Delhi today. Before leaving, the team visited the Pygmy Hog Conservation Centre at Basistha in the city and appreciated the efforts.
The report of the monitoring team will be submitted to the World Heritage Committee in March so that it could be considered for the 35th committee meeting to be held at Manama in Bahrain this year. The meeting is scheduled to be held between June 19 and 29.
Sources said a number of other issues, such as encroachment, regular funding and extension of the area, would have to be taken into consideration before the removal of the danger tag could be considered. “A good start has been made but it will take some time,” a source in the park said.
Representatives from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), the BTC, Aaranyak, and WWF were present during the discussions with the monitoring team. Officials from the Royal Manas National Park Bhutan, a contiguous area , were also present.
The World Heritage Committee has asked India to work with the Royal Government of Bhutan to have Royal Manas National Park Bhutan inscribed on the world heritage list as a trans-boundary property.
A park official said, “Recent direct sightings and camera-trap methods are indications of the presence of tiger in the site. The estimate is undertaken in collaboration with WII and other NGOs providing technical support. According to the preliminary results, the photographs of all major carnivores and prey species were found..”


Laokhowa willdlife sanctuary back in the making
Laokhowa set to regain status
The research team trains forest staff on tiger census. Telegraph picture
Guwahati, Jan. 27: The Laokhowa wildlife sanctuary in Nagaon is picking up the threads to regain its status as a rhino habitat after two decades.
The rhino population at Laokhowa was wiped out in 1983 when poachers killed 40 rhinos during the Assam agitation.
“People are now understanding the value of wildlife conservation,” C. Muthu Kumaravel, the divisional forest official of Nagaon wildlife division, told this correspondent. He said a number of initiatives had been taken in the last couple of years to put it back on track.
“The sanctuary can start becoming the home for rhinos within a year with more protection,” he said.
The sanctuary is located on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra and has an area of 70.13 square km. It is part of the Laokhowa-Bura Chapori eco-system. The Laokhowa and Bura Chapori wildlife sanctuaries together have been identified as a potential rhino habitat under the Indian Rhino Vision 2020.
Laokhowa has 35 camps with all the necessary logistics and mobile camps, barring these 35 camps. “Felling of trees has been reduced to a manageable level,” the official said.
The staff at the sanctuary are now being trained on GPS and technological equipment.
Pranjit Sarma of Aaranyak, who carried out a habitat-mapping in Laokhowa from 1970 to 2004, said the rhino habitat was still intact.
The Laokhowa and Bura Chapori sanctuaries are also part of the Kaziranga tiger reserve. Both Laokhowa and Bura Chapori are part of the Kaziranga-Orang riverine landscape, which has been identified as a major gateway for straying animals within the protected areas of central Assam.
Laokhowa was declared a reserve forest in 1907, a game sanctuary in 1916 and was upgraded to a wildlife sanctuary in 1979. It is surrounded by villages on almost all sides except in the north, where the Bura-Chapori sanctuary is located.
The official said 28 eco development committees had been set up to involve people in wildlife conservation.
The Laokhowa Bura Chapori Wildlife Conservation Society, formed in 2009, has helped to bring together people from all walks of life for conservation.
It has been entrusted with the responsibility of preparing the buffer area management plan (Laokhowa-Burha Chapori wildlife sanctuary component) of the Kaziranga tiger reserve. The draft copy has already been submitted to the authorities, the co-ordinator of the society, Smarajit Ojah, said.


centre to assam-impress unesco-iucn mission

Centre’s directive on Manas
- Unesco-IUCN team to visit park next week

Guwahati, Jan. 21: The Centre has for the first time asked Assam to put its best foot forward when the Unesco-IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) mission comes visiting so that Manas National Park can regain its coveted status of World Heritage Site.

Environment minister Jairam Ramesh has asked Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi to make use of the opportunity and present the improvement effected in the management of Manas National Park before the visiting mission in a forceful manner.

“I am writing this letter to personally impress upon you the importance that the Centre accords to the visit of the Unesco mission, as the success of this mission would restore the lost international glory to Manas National Park. May I request you to impress upon the state forest department to present the positive impact, specifically on wildlife population, (to the Unesco mission) in a forceful manner with a view to eliciting a favourable recommendation from them,” Ramesh said in a letter to Gogoi on January 13.

Ramesh said the Indian delegation in the 34th session of World Heritage Committee held in Brazil had strongly argued for removing the “in danger” tag from Manas and including it in the list of World Heritage Site.

A Unesco-IUCN mission, comprising Ram Boojh of Unesco-India, Sue Mainka from IUCN and Remco van Merm of world heritage programme, will visit Manas from January 25-30 for an on-the-spot assessment of the corrective measures taken so far along with their positive impact, particularly the trends in wildlife population.

Boojh told The Telegraph that the team was coming with a “positive frame” of mind and would like to meet a cross-section of society to get an overview on the state of conservation in the park.

The field director of the national park, A. Swargiary, said they were taking the visit seriously and had invited experts from the WWF and officials from Bhutan, in cooperation with which it had initiated transboundary work.

“Getting back the coveted status is still sometime away but this is definitely the start of the journey,” a source said.

Swargiary said a proper and well-documented management plan had been prepared. It prescribes a clear vision for future management of the national park and addresses issues like wildlife monitoring, management of invasive species, land use management, fire utilisation and tourism strategy.

He said recent direct sightings and camera-trap method are indication of the presence of tiger population in the park.


coffe table book in aid of tawang monastery
Volume to save monastery
- First coffee table book in tribute to Tawang’s beauty
Guwahati, Jan. 12: The first coffee table book on Tawang will provide a helping hand to Tawang monastery.
The author, Pomi Baruah, an Assam civil servant, has decided to share the proceeds of his first coffee table book to repair the damaged monastery.
In September last year, landslides triggered by continuous rainfall, ripped away the entire chunk of landmass below the monastery.
“A part of the proceeds from the book will go to the Tawang monastery,” Baruah told this correspondent.
Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Dorjee Khandu had released the book, Tawang — Land of the Dawnlit Mountains, on Maitreyee Diwas on December 28.
“The monastery is very close to my heart and I am in touch with my friends there for doing whatever I can for it. It is our heritage and pride,” she said.
Baruah is a programme officer and officer on special duty in the state finance department.
The 170-page colourful book pays homage to the beauty of Tawang and is a gift to the unforgettable hospitality and love of its people.
“We have issued an appeal asking for help and advice. If they think Tawang monastery is a priceless property, they should come forward,” the spiritual head of the monastery, Guru Tulku Rinpoche, told The Telegraph.
He said various rituals were being carried out and stupas erected at the site to stop landslides but the situation remains as vulnerable as before.
“We are trying our level best. We are living in the 21st century and solutions should be there,” he added.
Rinpoche said concrete steps should be taken on time, as continuous rainfall in summer and snowfall in winter would completely wash away the entire landmass behind the monastery.
The monastery consists of a main prayer hall, library, administrative building, school, main kitchen-cum-dining hall, museum and 65 residences accommodating more than 500 monks.
All these old structures will suffer great damage if the landslides continue.
The monastery has requested the Centre, state and the departments concerned to take tangible steps to stop the landslides.
It has requested various organisations and individuals to disseminate this information to form a pressure group that would request the government to take measures.
The Environment Protection Society has been conducting surveys on landslides at Tawang monastery since September.
The third survey conducted on December 26 found that landslides were still taking place in the area.
An eight-member inter-ministerial central team had visited Tawang last month to assess the damage by unprecedented rainfall and landslides in the area.
Merak Lama Lodre Gyatso had founded the famous Gaden Namgyal Lhatse, popularly known as Tawang monastery, in 1680-81.
“Tawang monastery is our pride but unfortunately for the past few months there has been continuous landslides and we are all concerned about it,” Nawang Choidak, a resident of Tawang, said.
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forest rights act stuck in Northeast India

Panel: Forest act stuck


Guwahati, Jan. 5: A joint committee of the ministry of environment and forests and the ministry of tribal affairs has observed that the implementation of Forest Rights Act has hardly progressed in the Northeast. The act is one of the most important legislations drafted by the Centre to give rights to forest dwellers.

“In most of the northeastern states, the governments felt that the act was not relevant to their situation or were not clear on how it applied in the Sixth Schedule areas. Most of them are re-examining their position,” the committee said in its final report, submitted rcently.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, (or the Forests Rights Act) was enacted in 2007 through the ministry of tribal affairs to correct the “injustice done to forest-dwelling communities”.

The ministries of environment and forests and tribal affairs constituted a joint committee in April last year to review its implementation.

In Manipur, while the government has been unable to state why the act was not implemented, the ministry of tribal affairs said, “Tribal communities and tribal chiefs are already holding ownership of forest land as their ancestral land in non-reserved forest areas. Therefore, implementation of the act is perceived minimal in Manipur.”

Nagaland said, “Land-holding system and the village system of the Naga people is peculiar in that the people are the landowners. There are no tribes or groups of people or forest dwellers in Nagaland.” Hence, the Forest Rights Act per se “may not be applicable”. But the government has constituted a committee under Article 371(A) of the Constitution to examine this.

Meghalaya’s version is “substantial portion of forestland is owned by clans, community or individuals and implementation of the act has, therefore, limited scope.”

The act was notified on March 3, 2010 and so far only the higher-level institutions have been set up.

The act has also not been implemented in the Sixth Schedule areas of Assam till now, as the state has asked for clarification from the ministry of tribal affairs on the legal aspects of the constitution of committees in this regard. In Assam, only 27 per cent of the title deeds have been distributed. In Tripura 67 per cent of the title deeds have been distributed.

In Arunachal Pradesh, the act does not have much relevance. The state said it “is wholly domiciled by ethnic tribal groups whose land and forests are specifically identified with natural boundaries. Barring few pockets of land under wildlife sanctuaries and reserved forests, most of the land in the state is community land. Territorial boundaries of land and forest belonging to communities or tribes are also identified in the same line, leaving no scope for any dispute over the possession of land and forests.”

The committee in its report said the ministry of tribal affairs has reportedly been in touch with some states to clarify doubts, but it is not clear what specific position it has taken or advise it has given.

“A reading of the Act’s provisions, along with the individual powers that most north-eastern states (or parts of these states where Sixth Schedule applies), suggests that the fear of undermining existing rights is unfounded if the Forest Rights Act is implemented in its true spirit and letter, and that rather, the Act could further strengthen customary or traditional rights,” it added.


Japanese technology for dolphin detection in Brahmaputra now
Hear the dolphins sing

- Japanese water acoustics technology on Brahmaputra


Guwahati, Jan 5: Japanese underwater acoustics technology, used for detection of Gangetic dolphins, is now being planned for the Brahmaputra.

Aaranyak, a biodiversity conservation society of theNortheast, which had earlier conducted two surveys in 2005 and 2008, now plans to use Japanese technology to increase the detection of dolphins.

“Direct sighting has been useful but we would like to increase the detection as all dolphins cannot be sighted visually. The underwater acoustic device or hydrophone, which measures the clicking sounds emitted by the dolphins, can helpin detection,” said Abdul Wakid, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) dolphin specialist and programme head of Gangetic Dolphin Research and conservation programme of Aaranyak.

Sound frequencies produced by dolphins are picked up by hydrophone and observers on land can view the real time location displayed on a PC over a wireless connection.

The third survey, to be held on the Kulsi, Subansiri and Brahmaputra mainstream is being planned before the monsoon.

The state forest department has to give its permission before the survey can be conducted.

The Gangetic river dolphin (Platanista gangetica gangetica) is primarily an inhabitant of the Ganga and Brahmaputra river systems of India and Bangladesh. At present there are less than 2,000 dolphins surviving in the world.

The species has been declared a national aquatic animal by the Centre on October 5, 2009.

Wakid has been working on Irrawaddy dolphins in Chilika lake with Tomonari Akamatsu, an acoustic expert from the National Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Japan, as well as an IUCN recognised cetacean expert. The acoustic technology has been testedon the Ganga and Chilika lake and the results have been good.

The Peter Scott Fund of IUCN, which had helped carry out the dolphin survey on the Brahmaputra in 2008, had said in its report that there is a planned collaborative project between the Japanese and Indian teams to deploy refined acoustic devices in the river.This objective will hopefully be fulfilled in the near future.

Brahmaputra river system in Assam has been identified as one of the last habitats of the species by scientific communities. Although there was a gradual decline of the species in last few decades, currently the population has shown an increase. In the 1993, 1997 and 2002 surveys, altogether 266, 218, and 198 dolphins were recorded in the Brahmaputra mainstream.

However, in the 2005 and 2008 surveys, Aaranyak has recorded 197 and 212 dolphins respectively on the same river stretch (Assam-Arunachal border to India-Bangladesh border).

A  community-based dolphin conservation network has been formed under the Gangetic Dolphin Research and Conservation Programme to monitor important dolphin habitats. The mortality rate of the species has declined from 16 deaths in 2008 to five in 2009 because of intensive monitoring.

“Management authorities, organisations working for conservation and local communities need to work more closely, collaboratively and effectively, since the threat factors (accidental killing through fisheries entanglement, poaching) on dolphins are still very intense,” Wakid said. Wildlife expert Anwaruddin Choudhury feels though the population has stabilised, poaching is still a concern.