The Centre has proposed that the buffer areas of Manas tiger reserve, currently under the jurisdiction of the Bodoland Territorial Council forest chief, be brought under the unified command of the field director for better management.
This was suggested in the management effectiveness evaluation report brought out by the Wildlife Institute of India and National Tiger Conservation Authority recently.
In 2008, an area of 2,837 square km was notified as Manas tiger reserve, which included 500 square km core area as national park and 2,337.10 square km as buffer.
The buffer area is spread over Kachugaon, Haltugaon and Chirang forest divisions in the west of Baksa district and Dhansiri forest division in the east.
“The field director of Manas has no control of these areas, which causes management problems. Furthermore, the buffer area forests fall within the jurisdiction of forest chief of Bodoland Territorial Council, whereas the core area is under the control of chief wildlife warden Assam,” the report said.
The report said the dialogue could be started immediately with the BTC forest chief so as to obtain concurrence of state government and BTC.
The tiger reserve has 38 anti-poaching camps in the core but not a single one in the buffer. The camps are inadequately equipped by way of arms and ammunition, communication and living facilities for staff.
“Illegal activities happen in the buffer area as there is no control of the management over the area. Action has to be taken for bringing the buffer under management control,” a park official said.
Though the buffer zone of a tiger reserve will not have the status of a national park or a sanctuary, as a “multiple use area”, it may encompass conservation or community reserves, apart from revenue lands, private holdings, villages, towns and other production sectors.
According to the latest guidelines of tiger conservation plan, the buffer zone should be notified as required under the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Act, 2006, and placed under the unified control of the field director of the tiger reserve.
The guidelines say the buffer zone management should address threats to wildlife conservation emanating from regional development activities such as forest concessions, industrial pollution, highway development, extensive high-value farming or ecologically unsustainable and intensive land uses like mining.
The buffer area also absorbs the poaching pressure on populations of tiger and other wild animals. In case of severe habitat depletion in buffer areas, the source population would get targeted and eventually decimate.
The core area is critical and inviolate, while the buffer area is the peripheral area to foster co-existence with the local people.
The issue was earlier raised by a team of experts from the National Tiger Conservation Authority in 2009 and had pointed out to the state forest department that the buffer area of Manas tiger reserve is not under the control of the management.