X.9 Manas Wildlife Sanctuary (India)
The Committee was informed that, as requested by the twentythird ordinary session of the Bureau (5-10 July 1999), IUCN has reviewed the justifications, provided by Indian authorities, to the budgetary revisions for the utilization of the US$ 70,000 of the US$ 90,000 approved by the twenty-first session of the Committee (Naples, Italy, 1997). The US$ 70,000 was originally intended for the reconstruction of guard camps and staff residential facilities destroyed during the Bodo militancy from 1989 to 1992. The revisions proposed suggested that the construction of guard camps be restricted to parts of the Sanctuary where security conditions had sufficiently improved. The site management had proposed to use the savings made from reducing the number of construction activities foreseen for outreach activities, such as the organization of veterinary and health camps, repair of existing irrigation facilities etc., that directly benefit villagers. These activities are considered critical by the site management for continuously improving the relationship between staff and local villagers. As advised by IUCN, the Centre has accepted these budgetary revisions and implementation of the project has been accelerated.
IUCN had also reviewed the state of conservation report on this site provided by the State Party as attachment to its letter of 21 June 1999 to the Centre. IUCN has noted several positive developments brought about by the implementation of the rehabilitation plan agreed upon by the State Party and the Bureau in 1997. For example, the Nansbari Range Headquarters as well as the Directorate Headquarters now contain members of the Assam Forest Protection Force who act as a rapid reaction force for patrols and surveillance operations in vulnerable areas. The site has been opened to the public since 1995 and visitor numbers are slowly increasing. Ecological damage to the habitats of the site during the Bodo militancy has been negligible and large mammal populations are expected to return to pre-1989 levels over the next few years. However, the restoration of site infrastructure, i.e. roads, staff accommodation etc., proceeds at a slow pace and staff training requires attention. The main problem facing the site is the alienation of local villagers. People living in the vicinity of the site are poor and depend on natural resources for their livelihood. The site management is attempting to increase outreach activities but further efforts are needed in this regard. IUCN has submitted to the Centre a recent report that indicates the intention of the Minister for the Environment and Forests to establish an armed police force to protect endangered wildlife from poachers and save forests from timber poachers. IUCN is verifying other unconfirmed reports of the take-over of parts of the Sanctuary by tribal guerillas and the withdrawal of paramilitary forces from those parts.
The Committee decided to retain this site in the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Committee invited the State Party to cooperate with the Centre and IUCN to prepare a progress report on the implementation of the rehabilitation plan since mid-1997 for submission to the twenty-fourth session of the Committee in 2000. Such a report may include an assessment of the time needed for the satisfactory rehabilitation of the site and for the removal of this site from the List of World Heritage in Danger.