A report on the state of conservation of the property was provided by the State Party on 1 February 2012, containing information on the progress made in the implementation of the recommendations made by the Committee at its 35th session (UNESCO, 2011).
a) Sustainable funding
The State Party reports that the Manas Tiger Conservation Foundation (MTCF) has been operationalized, and that the MTCF currently receives funds from ecotourism activities. It notes that other options to mobilize funding from a wider range of sources, including the corporate sector and NGOs, are currently being explored, and that the Central Government is currently considering the possibility of transfering Central Government funds directly to the MTCF.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN recall that the State Party, in a letter dated 6 April 2011, had reported that a proposal for direct fund flow from the Central Government to the MTCF would in all probability be operational in the financial year 2011-2012. They regret that this appears to have been delayed, and note that IUCN has received reports that slow fund release continues to be a problem for the management of the property. They consider that the approval for direct release of funds from the Central Government to the MTCF remains a crucial step to help address this issue.
b) Integrated ecosystem-based monitoring system
The State Party recalls that on 17 March 2011 it had submitted to the World Heritage Centre and IUCN a draft framework for ecosystem-based monitoring in the property. It reports that the implementation of this framework has commenced with the preparation of spatial maps, research on drivers of habitat change, and monitoring of vegetation, including invasive species.
c) Recovery plan for Eastern Swamp Deer and reintroduction of Greater One-horned Rhino
The State Party reports that the detailed recovery plan for Eastern Swamp Deer, which was submitted to the World Heritage Centre and IUCN on 17 March 2011, is now being implemented. The State Party notes that a proposal for the capture and translocation of 25 Eastern Swamp Deer from Kaziranga National Park is awaiting approval from the relevant authorities, and that individuals to be captured are currently being identified. The State Party also notes that habitat suitability and population dynamics studies are being carried out both in Manas and Kaziranga.
The State Party also reports that it is committed to complete the first phase of the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 with the reintroduction of 12 rhinos in 2012, bringing the total number of reintroduced rhinos in the property to 20.
d) Comprehensive tourism management plan
The State Party reports that the park authorities have prepared a comprehensive tourism management plan, of which the State Party provided a draft as an annex to its report. The State Party notes that the tourism management plan is currently in a public consultation phase involving a range of stakeholders, including local communities engaged in tourism activities.
e) Three-staged extension of the property
The State Party notes that a proposal has been prepared for an extension of the property and the name of the property to coincide with the full extent of Manas National Park. An initial request for the extension was provided as an annex to the State Party’s report, which is presented in Document WHC-12/36.COM/8B.Add.
The State Party also notes that a proposal to add 36,000 hectares of forest lands to Manas National Park is currently awaiting approval by the Bodoland Territorial Council and the Government of Assam, after which it would be submitted to the World Heritage Centre.
The State Party further notes that the Indian and Bhutanese park authorities have met on two occasions on 24 October and 18-19 November 2011 to consider the possible nomination of a transboundary property.
f) Other conservation issues – hydro-electric dam projects
IUCN has received reports that two hydro-electric projects (HEP) in Bhutan, namely the existing Kurichu HEP (60 MW) and the proposed Mangdechhu HEP (720 MW) are likely to negatively affect the forests and water bodies of the property in a way which would reduce the ecosystems’ ability to support wildlife. Both the Kurichu and the Mangdechhu rivers contribute to the flow of the Manas-Beki river system, which considerably sustains the property. It is noted that the Kurichu dam has already affected the forests and wildlife of the property, when in 2004 it released excess water that caused an unprecedented flood in the Manas-Beki river system, washing away parts of the property and killing a large number of wild animals. The release of water from the Kurichu dam on several occasions in the last six years is reported to have caused floods in the wider Manas Biosphere Reserve, of which the property forms an integral part, which could potentially affect areas proposed for future inclusion in the property. The reports received by IUCN suggest that no environmental impact assessment has yet been undertaken for the proposed Mangdechhu project. On 18 May 2012, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party of Bhutan to request further information on this issue.