Conservation in Manas

Increasing conservation efforts in a World Heritage Site.

Bipul Das

Age 35, India

PROJECT: Increasing conservation efforts in a World Heritage Site.

Contact Bipul with questions, suggestions, or to get involved at bipul@aaranyak.org.

Tell us about the work you are doing to create a wilder world.
I am a committed young naturalist broadly interested in knowing the patterns and process of natural world. Currently I am involved in generating mass awareness to mitigate the human elephant conflict around Manas World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve at Indo-Bhutan Border since October 2007. I was born and brought up in a small village of Assam. I am working with the local communities to make them aware about wildlife conservation and show them the various sustainable livelihood methods such as Eco-tourism and agro forestry for which the Protected Areas authorities are getting support from the civil societies. Conservation is still a very young field in Northeast India and we often struggle to effectively communicate the importance of conserving species and habitats. I am also working with the indigenous villagers to develop conservation volunteers and eco-tourism business while also assisting with the reforestation of the area. I am keen to learn more about, and involve myself with, conservation policy and its drivers and determinants, and work towards the increased incorporation of science into policy. Apart from these, I have acquired vast knowledge on terrain, culture and the people of the region and gained expertise and confidence to execute field based research.

What are five (5) of your short term goals to accomplish in the next 1-2 years?
1) Establishment of 10 ha plantation of endemic tree species in severely degraded habitat of Manas Biosphere Reserve cum Tiger Reserve , Assam, India.
2) To train at least 20 youth from local fringe as nature guides.
3) To train 50 women groups from nearby fringe for creating alternative livelihood to reduce dependency on forest resources.
4) To educate and involve at least 100 students from nearby protected areas on wildlife conservation.
5) To conduct at least 20 science teachers training within two years at local level to motivate the teachers to wildlife conservation.

What are some of your long term goals to accomplish in the next 5-10 years?
1) To recover the past glory of Manas buffer by restoring the areas that are severely degraded forest in the eastern part of Manas World Heritage Site involving local community.
2) Strengthen the long term conservation of Manas World Heritage Site cum Biosphere Reserve through capacity development of local youth in eco-tourism business.
3) Strengthen community participation specially women folk in conservation of Manas World Heritage Site cum Biosphere Reserve through diverse livelihood options.

How can others help you accomplish these goals?
The Protected Area authority of Manas World Heritage site has helped by giving permission for plantation and facilitate protection measures. Some project activities were implemented with the help of Manas Chowki Ecotourism Society (a community based organization) members. All Bodo Students Union is a student’s organization (non political) we’re helping in organizing a motivation camp at selected areas where tree felling, encroachment and poaching were rampant.

How can the public get involved with your project/work?
My project is a community based project and all activities were carried out through local people’s involvement and organized in the joint venture of local clubs, community based organizations, women groups, Parks authorities, District administration and local schools. The plantation work has been carried out by involving local community near the fringe buffer. By promoting of alternative livelihood programme, the project activities tried to generate positive attitude on the surrounding communities towards conservation of the charismatic species and make them self-dependent to solve the issues at their community level, which has boost up long lasting contribution to biodiversity conservation in the buffer of Manas WHS cum Biosphere reserve.

What have been some successes you have had?
Establishment of nursery of locally available tree species to restore the degraded habitat of eastern buffer of Manas WHS cum Biosphere Reserve. Before the initiation of the nursery the land was barren and full of stones. But with time, earth filling was done and saplings raised in polypots transformed the area in to a well established nursery site. The saplings were later successfully planted in the degraded areas. Promotion of eco-tourism in the buffer of Manas WHS is also an another success of project activities. Finally the project work has able to leave a permanent legacy by leaving in place a long term framework and model to reduce the level of dependency on the forest. 300 households have been economically empowered by taking alternative livelihood opportunities. Awareness among the students has increases the level of confidence for living in harmony with wildlife of Manas World Heritage Site.

What are some lessons you have learned/what would you have done differently?
1) Even though the majority of youths were only school pass (class X), it was found that a little persuasion and training can help them in changing their perspective towards conservation and transforming them to good nature guides.
2) The external factors (e.g. seasons like pre-monsoon and monsoon) for nursery growing and plantation of the target area was a major issue to be considered both at planning and implementation stages for the projects for successful implementation.
3)The womenfolk in the communities were a very important resource in motivating their family members to give up the risky profession of illegal forest produce extraction.
4) Again convincing the stakeholders to recognize that they have very important stake in the process of conservation is a challenge and it was very important to accomplish that at the initial stage of the project implementation.

Anything else you want to tell the world?
The Project site was listed as World Heritage Site in danger between 1992 and 2011, after invasion by militants of the Bodo tribe seeking political redress. Its infrastructure suffered great damage from 1988 to 1993 and political instability between 1990 and 1996 destroyed hundreds of trees and animals, including nearly all the Park’s rhinoceros and 50% of its tigers. Currently the social unrest is over, the forest staff has been geared up to fight with the anti-social involved in wildlife poaching and timber smuggling for which the anti-poaching staff are getting support from the local communities and civil societies. I worked with indigenous villages to develop conservation volunteers and eco-tourism business while also assisting with the reforestation efforts and wildlife conservation.

 Learn more about Bipul Das’ work by downloading this PowerPoint.

Conservation is still a very young field in Northeast India and we often struggle to effectively communicate the importance of conserving species and habitats

Establishment of "Chowki Eco Camp" is a major milestone of the project activities. This will not only create an alternative livelihood to the local youth but able to increase the awareness of wildlife conservation.