New Delhi is yet to respond to Thimphu’s comments on a draft memorandum of understanding on wildlife cooperation between India and Bhutan over a year ago to protect Manas on both sides of the international border.
A source said Bhutan has given its comments on the MoU, but there has been no response from New Delhi.
“A senior park official from Royal Manas Bhutan visited Manas National Park a couple of days back and said his government had given its comments on the draft and has agreed to the trans-boundary concept. It was now waiting for India to go ahead,” the source said.
There have been discussions between conservation agencies on the trans-boundary issues which are also supporting the cause and called for expeditious action from the host country. A number of training programmes has been organised in Bhutan to educate officials on wildlife issues.
At present, India has a memorandum of understanding with Nepal on controlling trans-boundary illegal trade in wildlife and conservation, apart from a protocol on tiger conservation with China.
The source said the draft memorandum of understanding has to be vetted by the ministry of home affairs and external affairs.
At present, collaboration and cooperation between the managers and staff of Manas National Park and Royal Manas National Park is very strong but it needs to be formalised.
The Indian and Bhutanese park management and staff regularly visit each other to exchange information and can move freely across the border for this purpose.
Though there was joint camera trapping of tigers in both Manas National Park and Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan, the report has still not come out.
However, officials said before talking on trans-boundary issues — which is required as it will help wildlife conservation on both sides — it is important to put Manas National Park into proper shape.
There are a number of problems that still haunt Manas like the absence of control over the buffer areas. For instance, the field director of Manas has no control of these areas, which causes management problems.
The buffer area forests fall within the jurisdiction of the forest chief of Bodoland Territorial Council, whereas the core area is under the control of chief wildlife warden, Assam.
The joint IUCN/Unesco mission which visited Manas early this year has strongly encouraged both India and Bhutan to do a joint feasibility study on a trans-boundary expansion of the existing property to include larger areas of this landscape on both sides of the international border.
While Manas National Park has been declared out of danger, forest officials said it was time for Bhutan to nominate Royal Manas as a World Heritage Site, which will help both the sides. India has already given its support for helping Bhutan to nominate Royal Manas as a World Heritage Site.