New Delhi, Dec 23 (IANS) In a major success to the wildlife preservation bid, a large area which was part of the prime habitat of Manas National Park was freed from 20 years of encroachment in a day long operation on Thursday.
It took 800 people including 350 police and paramilitary personnel and a convoy of 15 elephants divided in different groups to complete the operation to free over 16 sq. kms of the core-forest, officials said.
“The area is very important as it is the part of the prime habitat of the grasslands in the eastern region of the forest. Its restoration was very essential for conservation of the herbivores,” H.K. Sharma, field director of Manas National Park told IANS.
A UNESCO world heritage site, Manas National Park was enlisted as ‘World Heritage in Danger’ by the UN body in 2009 following high rate of killing, poaching and encroachment. It was taken down from the list in 2011 following restoration including rehabilitation of Rhinos.
As per the government data, about 14,000 sq. kms of forest area is under encroachment across nation of which 3,172 sq. kms comes in Assam.
The official added that the area named Gulariapada, was taken by the villagers for agriculture and encroachment started effecting the conservation since 1998.
“The encroachment was gradually increasing. Several people from nearby villages taking advantage of the situation in past took over the area by starting to cultivate it,” Sharma said.
He added that now its free, they will first have to restore the area by planting grass and then it could be used for several projects, such as restoration of several herbivores and other animals.
“Luckily we faced no major resistance this time,” an official said.
Spread over an are of 500 sq. kms to which 350 sq. kms were added in August 2016, Manas National Park or Manas is home to several endangered species including Golden Langur, Pygmy Hog and Assam Rabbit.
The scenic forests of Manas are spread over India and Bhutan. In Bhutan, the forest is oldest national park called ‘Royal Manas’ and spreads over the 1050 sq. kms.