The Bureau recalled that the Committee, at its last session (Kyoto, 1998), had learnt that the implementation of the rehabilitation plan was progressing satisfactorily. The Committee also learned that the construction of ranger posts and staff housing using the second instalment of US$ 90,000 had been delayed due to adverse climatic conditions in the area throughout 1998. The Committee was informed that, while security conditions in and around Manas had improved, the threat of insurgency still prevailed and that militants often traversed the Sanctuary. Nevertheless, the Committee noted that conditions for site protection and the relationship with local villagers were gradually improving. The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) had provided US$ 400,000 to strengthen the conservation of Manas during 1997-98, and an additional US$ 100,000 in 1998. MOEF will consider making further contributions as soon as the funds provided so far are utilized in accordance with plans agreed upon by MOEF, the State Government of Assam, site management and the Bureau in 1997. The Committee had also requested the Director-General of UNESCO to invite the Government of Bhutan to ratify the World Heritage Convention and to consider nominating the Royal Manas National Park of Bhutan for consideration by the Committee for World Heritage status. The Committee noted that this could help to strengthen the overall protection of the trans-border Manas ecosystem.
The Bureau was satisfied to receive confirmation from the Centre that all equipment purchased and delivered using the first instalment of US$ 75,000 is now operational and in use. With regard to the use of the second instalment of US$ 90,000, plans for the purchase of two additional wooden fiber boats and 400 units of patrolling gear for US$ 20,000 remain unchanged and are being implemented. The use of the balance of US$ 70,000 for the construction of ranger posts and staff housing, however is being reviewed due to the fact that not all parts of the Sanctuary are fully secure for staff to be resident. Furthermore, site management seems eager to support some activities that would benefit local villages and enhance trust-building between management and the local community. MOEF has submitted to the Centre a revised budget, comprising sixteen activities, for the use of the US$ 70,000. The Centre, after consulting with IUCN, had sought clarification from the Indian authorities on conservation benefits expected to derive from six of the sixteen activities that are intended to cater to the needs of local villagers. The Bureau was informed that MOEF has transmitted via its letter of 21 June 1999, a detailed report on the state of conservation of Manas that included clarifications requested by the Centre. The Bureau requested the Centre to transmit the report to IUCN for review.
The Bureau was informed that the WWF Office of Bhutan has offered the Centre its assistance in reviewing detailed documentation on the Convention, with a view to advising the Royal Government of Bhutan on the implications of Bhutan’s ratification of the World Heritage Convention and the nomination of the Royal Manas National Park as a World Heritage site. The Bureau noted that the Centre has transmitted all relevant information to the WWF Office in Bhutan. The Bureau encouraged the Centre and IUCN to continue their co-operation with WWF and other international conservation organizations resident in Bhutan to urge the Royal Government of Bhutan to ratify the Convention and nominate the Royal Manas National Park for consideration as World Heritage as soon as possible.
The Bureau urged the Centre and IUCN to finalize the revision of the budget for the use of the US$ 70,000 and expedite the rate of implementation of the rehabilitation plan that appears to have slowed down during 1998. The Bureau recommended that the Committee retain this site in the List of World Heritage in Danger.