V.38 The Bureau was informed that the IUCN/Centre mission to the site, foreseen for May 2001, is now postponed until October/November 2001 due to climatic and security related reasons. IUCN has received reports that indicate continuing insurgency in the area. Alleged in-fighting within the United Liberation Front of Assam is speculated to have caused a movement of insurgents into the Sanctuary in December 2000 from the Bhutan side of the transborder Manas ecosystem. The Chief Minister of Assam has informed the State Assembly that offensive operations were underway against 35 insurgents suspected to have entered the Barpeta District.
V.39 The Bureau noted the view of IUCN that poaching continues to be a significant threat to key wildlife species in the Sanctuary, e.g. populations of rhino, elephants and swamp deer. The construction of a road through the Bhutan side of the Manas ecosystem has significantly increased traffic and access to the core areas of Manas World Heritage site of India. However, IUCN also noted that the efforts of the Forest Department and village communities have led to the establishment of 25 "Manas Bandhu" ("Friends of Manas") groups. These groups of young volunteers from the villages around the Sanctuary have been conducting awareness campaigns and contributing to conservation work. A Forest Department Workshop on Wildlife Conservation conducted in September 2000 at Bansbari Range to explore possibilities of co-operation between these volunteer groups and NGOs, generated self-employment opportunities for some local villagers and increased people's support for the conservation of Manas.
V.40 The Bureau learnt that Manas is also a pilot site included in the UNESCO/IUCN/UNF-UNFIP project entitled: "Enhancing our heritage: monitoring and managing for success in World Natural Heritage sites". As part of the project a site-specific monitoring regime, including indicators and benchmarks tracking the state of conservation of the site and which could signal the time of removal of the site from the List of World Heritage in Danger, will be elaborated and tested over a 4-year time frame.
V.41 The Bureau urged the State Party, Centre and IUCN to organize the field visit as early as possible and submit a detailed report to the twenty-fifth session of the Committee in December 2001. The Bureau welcomed the co-operative approach of the Forest Department to solicit the support of local communities for conservation and encouraged the work of the "Manas Bandhu" groups. The Bureau encouraged the site authorities to co-operate with their counterparts in the Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan to curtail illegal activities threatening wildlife populations within the World Heritage site. The Bureau however, reiterated the urgent need for Bhutan's ratification of the Convention and requested the Director-General of UNESCO to invite His Majesty, the King of Bhutan to ratify the World Heritage Convention as early as possible.