Centre assures World Heritage Committee on Manas evictions

Delhi vow to clear settlers

Paddy fields in the Bhuyanpara range of Manas National Park. Telegraph picture
The Centre has assured the World Heritage Committee that it will launch eviction drives in Manas National Park.
The issue will be discussed during the 39th meeting of the committee in Bonn, Germany, from June 29 to July 8.
The committee last year had asked the Centre through the state forest department to take urgent measures to address the fresh encroachment at Bhuyanpara range in the national park, and rehabilitate degraded areas.
Eight translocated rhinos have been poached in the World Heritage Site since 2011 leading to concern worldwide.
The state of conservation report for Manas sent to the committee last month stated that a multi-pronged comprehensive long-term strategy has been chalked out for targeting the encroachers.
"Eviction of encroachers has to be done after the paddy cultivation season is over and to ensure that no further clearing in the grassland/forest is made. All access to forest, including grazing of livestock, collection of firewood and minor forest produce, fishing and hunting, to be strictly banned and the law enforced through strictest of measures," the report said.
The report prepared by the park said additional incentives such as provisioning for rations, vehicle and elephants for patrolling, wireless sets for communication and provisioning of winter gear are also being addressed to boost the morale of the staff.
It said deployment of two companies of eco-task force of Territorial Army under Union ministry of defence, which are currently based in Kokrajhar, has to be done for systematic area domination and undertaking plantation in the adjoining Daodhara and Batabari reserve forest areas.
The report said a systematic plan would be made for creating nursery and plantations in the reserve forest areas and complete closure of the national park to any anthropogenic pressures would have to be ensured for a complete revival of the habitat for wildlife.
Currently, Daodhara and Batabari reserve forests are facing an onslaught of clearing and illegal removal of trees.
There is a tremendous potential to create large-scale plantations through the eco-task force in both these areas.
"The advantage of bringing in the force is that they are trained army personnel and will ensure area domination against the armed miscreants that support encroachers," it said.
The report said encroachment at Bhuyanpara is a recurring problem and the socio-political situation, including the presence of militant outfits in the vicinity of the park, unauthorised and illegal possession of weapons by civilians and the prevalence of country-made fire arms have also been some of the factors that have led to land mafia-backed encroachment inside the park.
Park officials said the current encroachment is not of a permanent nature and the people from at least 30 villages from nearby areas participate in clearing and cultivating small portions of grassland. Such encroachment is often backed and controlled by armed miscreants who have been identified and the information shared with intelligence authorities.
"What the committee says will be final and will also decide on whether a monitoring mission needs to be sent or not to Manas," a source said.
Last year, the Centre assured the committee that proper steps would be taken to improve the ground situation and not to send a monitoring mission.


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