Manas Wildlife Sanctuary

Country
India
Inscribed in
1985
Criteria
(vii)
(ix)
(x)
The conservation outlook for this site has been assessed as "significant concern" in the latest assessment cycle. Explore the Conservation Outlook Assessment for the site below. You have the option to access the summary, or the detailed assessment.
On a gentle slope in the foothills of the Himalayas, where wooded hills give way to alluvial grasslands and tropical forests, the Manas sanctuary is home to a great variety of wildlife, including many endangered species, such as the tiger, pygmy hog, Indian rhinoceros and Indian elephant. © UNESCO
© Remco Van Merm

Summary

2020 Conservation Outlook

Finalised on
02 Dec 2020
Significant concern
The Manas Wildlife Sanctuary World Heritage Site has been the focus of long-term conservation concern and action. The property inscribed in 1985 was, seven years later, added to the World Heritage In Danger List in response to concerns linked to civil unrest and the degradation of natural values. Most alarming was the disappearance of Greater One-horned Rhinoceros from the property over a short 13-year period (1988-2001). The site spent a total of 19 years on the List of World Heritage in Danger during which time recovery efforts saw the rhino numbers increase, including the birth of new rhinos within the property. Other species too are subject to recovery actions and, whilst the site remains fragile and population trend data limited, it appears that populations of some animals are generally recovering. Management actions have also been slowly improved through the sustained efforts of the State Party backed by significant international support. Nevertheless, there remain some serious threats significant concern, such as those from agricultural encroachment, impact from upstream hydro-electric projects in Bhutan, improper protection and management of grasslands, invasive plants as well as some amount of poaching. The site was only removed from the Danger List in 2011. Continued and enhanced management effort will be required to avoid a return to the situation that led to the site’s inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Current state and trend of VALUES

High Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
The operations of the Manas Tiger Conservation Foundation (MTCF), the re-introduction of the Greater One-horned Rhino, the implementation of an integrated ecosystem-based monitoring system, implementation of the Eastern Swamp Deer Translocation Protocol, reintroduction of Pygmy Hog in the Bhuyanpara Range of the park along with imminent implementation of the rewilding strategy for the site are positive steps in ensuring the retention of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value. Though badly affected during the ethnic agitation and associated insurgency, the site is recovering. The possible expansion of the site both within India and potentially in collaboration between the adjoining States Parties of India and Bhutan is also a positive initiative in bolstering the ecological resilience of this site to maintain its World Heritage values. The future impact of increasing tourism numbers and activities may negatively affect the fragile and recovering OUV of the site. The newly completed tourism strategy is welcome, however, needs effective implementation and monitoring to ensure overall numbers of tourists are capped to prevent damage in key areas. The apparent lack of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the Mangdechhu hydro-electric project in neighbouring Bhutan is of high concern and means that the potential cumulative impacts of Mangedechhu and Kurichu dams on OUV of the site are unclear, unpredictable and likely not yet addressed through any mitigation measures.

Overall THREATS

High Threat
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary has in many ways been a model for the sustained use of the Convention’s Danger listing processes, which has seen a slow yet steady recovery of core values within the site to the point where it has allowed Manas to be removed from the Danger List in 2011. Nevertheless, a range of threats persist for the site, especially those linked to agricultural encroachment, grassland habitat degradation due to drainage issues, invasive plants, illegal livestock grazing, and indiscriminate grass burning, and the significant potential impacts arising from hydro-electric development in neighbouring Bhutan. 

Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT

Some Concern
In 2011, the World Heritage Committee decided to remove Manas Wildlife Sanctuary from the List of World Heritage in Danger. This was due to the State Party implementing corrective measures to restore the OUV of the site, which had been badly compromised during the time of political unrest. These included setting up an ecosystem-based monitoring system of wildlife populations; developing and putting into place the rhino and swamp deer recovery plan; and developing a comprehensive tourism management plan in close cooperation with local communities. Further progress has been made in providing funding since the Manas Tiger Conservation Foundation (MTCF) became operational and started to receive funds from ecotourism activities. However, effective law enforcement has been limited by the lack of adequate facilities and training of forest guards to confront insurgent groups. Managing Manas in an integrated fashion requires a rationalisation of the boundaries to both better align them with formal protected areas and ensure all areas of the OUV are included within the inscribed property. Equally, effective protection and management requires close cooperation with the neighbouring State Party of Bhutan.

Full assessment

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Finalised on
02 Dec 2020

Description of values

Wilderness area of exceptional natural beauty

Criterion
(vii)
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is recognized for its spectacular scenery and natural landscape. It is located at the foothills of the Eastern Himalayas and the northern boundary of the site is contiguous to the international border of Bhutan where the Bhutan Hills provide an imposing scenic backdrop. The tumultuous river swirling down the rugged mountains against the backdrop of forested hills coupled with the serenity of the alluvial grasslands and tropical evergreen forests offers a unique wilderness experience (World Heritage Committee, 2011).

Dynamic ecological processes supporting a rich diversity of ecosystems

Criterion
(ix)
The Manas-Beki system is the major river system flowing through the site and joins the Brahmaputra River further downstream. Heavy rainfall, the fragility of the rocks and the steep gradients of the catchments are responsible for an enormous amount of silt and rock being deposited to form alluvial terraces. The monsoon and river system at the site form four principal geological habitats: Bhabar savannah, Terai tract, marshlands and riverine tracts. Manas has exceptional importance within the Indian sub-continent’s protected areas, as one of the most significant remaining natural areas in the region, where sizeable populations of a large number of threatened species continue to survive. The three types of vegetation dominant at the site are semi-evergreen forests, mixed moist deciduous forests and alluvial grasslands. The vegetation of Manas has tremendous regenerating and self-sustaining capabilities due to its high fertility and response to natural grazing by herbivorous animals (World Heritage Committee, 2011).

High plant and animal diversity

Criterion
(x)
The range of habitats and vegetation within the site supports impressive levels of high plant diversity that includes 89 tree species, 49 shrubs, 37 undershrubs, 172 herbs and 36 climbers. There are also fifteen species of orchids, 18 species of fern and 43 species of grasses that provide vital forage to a range of ungulate species. Manas also provides habitat for 42 reptile species, 17 amphibians and 500 species of birds, a number of which are globally threatened including the critically endangered Bengal florican (Houbaropsis bengalensis) (World Heritage Committee, 2011; Das et al., 2014).

Threatened species of mammals

Criterion
(x)
The Manas Wildlife Sanctuary provides habitat for 23 of India’s most threatened species of mammals. There are 60 mammal species recorded at the site. These include the elephant (Elephas maximus), tiger (Panthera tigris), greater one-horned rhino (Rhinoceros unicornis), clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa), hog deer (Axis porcinus) and sloth bear (Melursus ursiuns). The wild buffalo (Bubalus arnee) population is possibly the only pure strain of this species still found in India. The site also has endemic species like pygmy hog (Porcula salvania), hispid hare (Caprolagus hispidus) and golden langur (Trachypithecus geei) (World Heritage Committee, 2011).

Assessment information

High Threat
Agricultural encroachments by settlers inside the World Heritage Site (in Bhuyanpara Range) poses the the most significant threat to the property. If left unchecked the area may be lost in the manner large areas in Panbari Range of Manas National Park (outside the WH Site) were lost. The eviction exercise by the authorities from about 16 sq. km. area in Bhuyanpara in 2017 did not succeed and the agricultural settlers now occupy about 22 sq. km. land in the range. Manas was inscribed onto the List of World Heritage In Danger in 1992 and removed from the list 19 years later in 2011. Commendable and sustained efforts from the State Party along with national civil society and international partners has seen many of the threats to the site ameliorated. Even the level of poaching in the site, which saw an increase in the first half of the decade, has come down with decline in insurgency and better protection in the core area of the park. However, the capacity of forest guards to effectively respond to any new threat (e.g. their inability to evict the encroachers) and insufficient law enforcement remain a cause for concern. Although killing of rhinos for their horn has stopped since 2016, illegal killing of other animals has continued. The existing Kurichu hydro-electric project in neighbouring Bhutan requires collaboration between India and Bhutan to minimize seriously damaging impacts on the site whenever there is water released. The water flow system needs to be better studied along with its impact on the habitats for adaptive management. The initiatives of the States Parties of India and Bhutan in considering an extension of the site, to include a transboundary extension would be a positive step in increasing the protection of the site.
Other
(Ethnic strife and insurgency)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Scattered(5-15%)
Over the last few years there has been a steady reduction in the level of threats posed to the site by insurgent groups, which is reflected in the fact that no rhino have been killed in Manas since 2016 (State Party of India, 2018; Govt. of Assam, 2019). In January 2020, almost all factions of Bodo insurgent groups still involved in armed struggle signed a 'historic' accord with the central and state governments, and over 1,500 militants who laid down their arms were promised a rehabilitation package. It is however unclear how this peace accord will influence the continuing ethnic strife between Bodo and non-Bodo groups, or even address the political difference between the different Bodo factions. Moreover, despite the above developments, people involved in agricultural encroachments particularly in the Bhuyanpara Range of the park continue to garner support from ex-militants or powerful political groups. Although rhinos have not been killed, the incidences of killing of deer and other wild animals for meat has also not gone down, particularly in Kokilabari area (IUCN Consultation, 2020). To address the problem several measures are being taken to improve staff morale, including trainings, study visits, and procurement of additional arms and vehicles. Shortages of frontline staff are compensated for by engaging Armed Home Guards, casual labourers and service providers. (State Party of India, 2016; Govt. of Assam, 2019).
Invasive Non-Native/ Alien Species, Problematic Native Species
(Invasive species)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Widespread(15-50%)
Outside site
Grassland invasion by weed species has been a problem since the year 2000. The most problematic invasive species are Chromolaena odorata, Leea asiatica, Bombax ceiba and Mikania micrantha (UNESCO, 2014). In Manas, Chromolaena and Mikania are the most prominent invasive plants in the grasslands (Das et al., 2019) and these two have invaded about 75 sq. km. and 82 sq. km. respectively, of the 391 sq. km. property (Nath et al., 2019). These reports agree that livestock grazing, movement of vehicles and people through the grassland tracks and indiscriminate grass burning by intruders as well as by the protection and management staff are aiding the spread of the invasive plants. The World Heritage Committee (2019) commended the State Party for the grassland management workshops and works undertaken to develop a science-based grassland management plan. It noted with concern the alarming spread of invasive plants, notably Chromolaena and Mikania, and urged the State Party to implement control measures based on scientific plans. Lack of information on the role of grass burning in controlling or potentially facilitating their proliferation remains a concern. A survey report on endangered grassland fauna provided by the State Party in 2015 noted that the spread of some invasive tree species, such as Bombax ceiba, may be promoted by regular grassland fires. The World Heritage Committee (2017) had requested the State Party to undertake or commission a detailed study on the use of fire for grassland management and its role in the proliferation or control of invasive species. The State Party of India (2018) reports that two Habitat Management Workshops involving scientific NGOs working in the park were organised in 2017 and 2018 and a Standard Operating Protocol has been developed, specially to manage the grassland habitat at the site. A third workshop was held in January 2020 to discuss the effect of management interventions and to modify the strategies, but it is not clear if these interventions resulted in any significant positive impact on the deteriorating habitat in some areas of the park such as the grasslands under Bansbari Range.
Logging/ Wood Harvesting, Other Biological Resource Use
(Illegal cultivation, encroachment and logging)
High Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
In 1984, the buffer zone was being managed under a ‘multiple use’ basis where selective forestry and firewood collection was allowed. This resulted in unsustainable over-logging of the forests (IUCN Evaluation, 1984). The levels of illegal logging inside the site are reportedly not decreasing, and in some areas along the Indo-Bhutan border in Panbari Range of the park, they are going up (IUCN Consultation, 2020). Alarming increase in illegal cultivation in Bhuyanpara Range has also become a major concern. Until 2016, about 1,600 hectares of land in the site was encroached (UNESCO, 2017). An eviction operation was carried out in December 2016 to clear the encroached land. However, the encroachers returned in bigger strengths soon afterwards and reports indicate that now about 2,200 hectare area of the property is under encroachment, which largely include cultivation and some construction of houses (UNESCO, 2019). It has been reported that the encroachers have the support of local influential or powerful groups. The authorities had cited lack of protection staff and proper planning, and political backlash for this failure to remove the encroachers (State Party of India, 2018; Govt. of Assam, 2019), and in private they also expressed fear of the local powerful groups. The State Party had not responded to the World Heritage Committee request to clarify and comment on the extent of encroachments, and therefore in 2019 the Committee expressed its utmost concern at these reported developments and requested the State Party again to clarify the current status of encroachment within the property and, if confirmed, to urgently address the issue and step up efforts to prevent further encroachment (World Heritage Committee, 2019). The encroached land extend from areas south and south-west of the Kokilabari Seed Farm to Digjari, Agrang, Khoirabari, Betbari and Panda Camp areas under the Bhuyanpara Range of the park (IUCN Consultation, 2020).
Dams/ Water Management or Use
(Hydro-electric power projects)
High Threat
Inside site
, Extent of threat not known
Outside site
In 2004, excess water was released from the Kurichu dam (part of the Kurichu hydroelectric project in neighboring Bhutan) resulting in an unprecedented flood in the Manas-Beki river system, washing away parts of the site and killing a large number of wild animals. The release of water from the Kurichu dam has occurred on several occasions in the last decade (IUCN Consultation, 2016), and is reported to have caused floods in the wider Manas Biosphere Reserve, of which the site forms an integral part (World Heritage Committee, 2012). Rapid onset of floods has been observed to be affecting the Manas – Beki basin and this needs proper study and monitoring (The Third Pole, 2016).
Temperature extremes, Storms/Flooding
(Climate change and severe weather events)
Data Deficient
Inside site
, Throughout(>50%)
Outside site
The impacts of climate change are already visible in the form of erratic weather patterns. Frequency and intensity of occurrence of natural disasters such as floods, landslides and drying up of wetlands would certainly impact the site. Further rise in temperatures and changing patterns of precipitation and storm activity can drive native plants and animals out of areas where they have lived for centuries (Wangdi, 2016). Climate change has affected the hydrology of the Manas River in the past few decades creating noticeable environment problems. Remarkable changes have also been noticed in the biodiversity of the Manas National Park as a result of climate change (Bora, 2018). Although there are some indications of adverse impact of climate change, more scientific studies are required to understand the trends and its impact on the habitats / ecosystems of the site.
Hunting and trapping
(Poaching of wildlife)
High Threat
Inside site
, Widespread(15-50%)
The entire population of one-horned rhinos decreased from around 100 at the time of the inscription of the property in 1985 to zero in 2001, primarily due to poaching during a time of political unrest. A programme to re-introduce the rhino back into Manas began in 2006 with one individual (State Party of India, 2011), and between 2008 and 2012, 18 further rhinos were reintroduced in the site through wild-to-wild translocation from Kaziranga and Pobitora. In addition, 17 rescued and rehabilitated rhinos from the wild animal rescue facility in Kaziranga were also released here between 2006 and 2019. While 24 rhino calves were born at the site between 2012 and 2019, 10 rhinos were lost to poaching between 2011 and 2016 (State Party of India, 2014 and 2016). After 2016, no rhino poaching incidence has been reported from the site, and with an improvement in the security situation two more wild rhinos from Kaziranga were translocated to Manas in early 2020. At least 6 rhinos reportedly died of natural causes since 2008, and 5 of them were rescued and rehabilitated animals who were reportedly killed by wild bulls between 2015 and 2019, exposing the risk of releasing captive-reared rhinos at a site with wild rhinos. Currently, the rhino population in Manas is recorded to be around 40 (Govt. of Assam, 2019; State Party of India, 2018).
The hog deer population crashed and the eastern swamp deer population dwindled to about 10 individuals during this period. Killing of deer and other animals including water buffalo for their meat continues, with sporadic reports of killing of tiger or elephant. These reports also mention use of dogs and increased nocturnal hunting for bush meat. The hog deer population that had plummeted during the political unrest has been recovering very slowly, mainly because the poaching pressure continues (Sinha et al., 2019). Officials of forest protection and surveillance unit, Bhutan, confiscated a tiger skin and bones at Gelegphu in September 2013. Based on the database of available and known tigers of the Manas Landscape, the individual was identified as TM4M in the trans-boundary report ‘tigers across borders’ (Borah et al., 2012). In November 2016, Forest department authorities assisted by NGOs and local informers seized a Tiger skin. In a similar case, the Forest Department seized a clouded leopard skin from traders in Manas (UNESCO, 2017). One tiger was also killed in Panbari Range outside the property in July 2017, followed by the arrest of poachers and confiscation of the animal’s body parts (State Party of India, 2018). The killing of tigers and other big cats in or near the property indicates that poaching remains a persistent high threat (UNESCO, 2019).
High Threat
The recently inaugurated Mangdechhu hydroelectric plant in the neighbouring country, Bhutan, which is twelve times bigger than the Kurichu hydro-electric dam, poses a serious potential threat upon the site. Apparently, no proper environmental impact assessment for its possible effect on the site was submitted to World Heritage Committee despite several requests. The proposed Road along Indo-Bhutan Border is another potential infrastructure project which would have negative impacts on the OUV of Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, although the likelihood of this project going ahead is uncertain. The inclusion of the Royal Manas National Park on Bhutan’s Tentative List, and the possibility of a future nomination by the State Party of Bhutan would enable the two sites to be managed more harmoniously in a way that would better protect OUV. The potential for the development of an ecotourism industry needs to be planned for and managed in order to ensure that such a development, whilst being beneficial to the local community, does not adversely impact the site’s fragile and recovering values as well as the cultural fabric of the existing fringe societies. The tourism strategy within the 2014-2024 Tiger Conservation Plan for Manas Tiger Reserve is a positive development that is expected to help managing any potential negative impacts from tourism.
Dams/ Water Management or Use
(Hydro-electric projects)
High Threat
Outside site
The 720 MW Mangdechhu dam was finally commissioned in January 2019 in Bhutan, but the State Party of Bhutan has not yet provided a copy of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for this large hydro-electric project despite repeated requests since 2012 (UNESCO, 2019). The impact of water released from the Kurichu hydro-electric project since 2004 has had a devastating impact on the site. The Mangedechhu dam, being 12 times larger than Kurichu, is likely to have a more serious negative impact on the forests and water bodies of the site, thus reducing the ecosystems’ ability to support wildlife.
The World Heritage Committee reiterated its request to the State Party of Bhutan to urgently provide a copy of the EIA as well as updated information on the project (World Heritage Committee, 2019).
Tourism/ visitors/ recreation
(Tourism development)
Low Threat
Inside site
, Localised(<5%)
Outside site
The State Party has advised that a tourism strategy was developed as part of the 2014-2024 Tiger Conservation Plan for Manas Tiger Reserve, of which the property forms the core zone (Govt. of Assam, 2019). The strategy includes provisions for the maximum allowable number of visitors and the type of activities permitted (State Party of India, 2014). The site is not ready to accommodate large numbers of visitors. The strategy is critical in order to ensure that the fragile and recovering Outstanding Universal Value of the site is not negatively affected (UNESCO, 2012). The State Party reports that the total number of visitors (national and international) in the site has reached 41,173 in 2015-16 (compared to 20,738 in 2013-14 and 10,261 in 2014-15). Tourism generated revenue accrued to INR 7.37 million in 2015-16 (State Party of India, 2016). It has been suggested that tourism promotion plan for the site can be separately developed by providing linkages to other sites of cultural and natural value providing more scope for community involvement. Further, an International tourism circuit can be promoted between India and Bhutan for attracting global tourists (IUCN, 2017).
Other
(Proposed Agricultural College)
Data Deficient
Outside site
There is a proposal to establish a large Agricultural College at the site of erstwhile Kokilabari Seed Farm (IUCN Consultation, 2020) and initial land survey and measurements were being carried out reportedly by the officials of Manas National Park in end January 2020 for preparation of a plan. Although the stage of development of the proposal is not clearly known, if Kokilabari area, which was once part of the Wildlife Sanctuary and is contiguous with grasslands in Bhuyanpara Range, goes under this development it will negatively affect the wet alluvial grasslands, thus reducing the ecosystem's ability to support wildlife. Moreover, this will attract more settlers. The proposal itself may have already triggered rapidly expanding encroachment of property's land near Kokilabari as is being witnessed.
Roads/ Railroads
(Proposed Road along Indo-Bhutan Border)
High Threat
Inside site
, Widespread(15-50%)
Outside site
The Government of India is proposing a border road to ensure protection along the Indo-Bhutan border. Sashastra Seema Bal-SSB (a paramilitary force) is responsible for protection of Indo-Bhutan border area. The proposed road would allow for movement and other operations of SSB along the Indo-Bhutan border, and also includes proposal to establish border outposts at 4km intervals along the road. There is a lack of formal information indicating the likelihood of the proposed project at the current time of assessment. However should the road project go ahead, potential impacts on the OUV of the property would likely be triggered through increased disturbance and secondary impacts associated with road infrastructure projects. 
Manas Wildlife Sanctuary has in many ways been a model for the sustained use of the Convention’s Danger listing processes, which has seen a slow yet steady recovery of core values within the site to the point where it has allowed Manas to be removed from the Danger List in 2011. Nevertheless, a range of threats persist for the site, especially those linked to agricultural encroachment, grassland habitat degradation due to drainage issues, invasive plants, illegal livestock grazing, and indiscriminate grass burning, and the significant potential impacts arising from hydro-electric development in neighbouring Bhutan. 
Management system
Mostly Effective
As a National Park, Manas is granted high levels of national protection and is owned and managed by the State of Assam. Manas is located in the autonomous Bodoland territory and under the 2003 agreement which created it, the Bodoland Territorail Council (BTC) has executive, administrative and financial powers for the management of forests, and has been an important provider of funds and resources for the management of Manas National Park (UNESCO/IUCN, 2011). The site has suffered in the past from a lack of management planning (UNESCO/IUCN, 2008). Since 2008, the management planning process has improved. The site is subject to a range of management planning instruments due to overlapping jurisdictions, however the Management Plan of Manas National Park 2008-09 to 2015-2016 was the most relevant for the World Heritage site (UNESCO/IUCN, 2011). A detailed Tiger Conservation Plan 2014-2024 exists for the park (Govt. of Assam, 2019). A comprehensive protection, habitat management and tourism strategies have also been developed as part of this plan. 
Effectiveness of management system
Some Concern
It was hoped that the implementation of the Integrated Ecosystem Based Monitoring System would improve the quality of management at Manas by allowing property wide analysis of key values and the conservation status of populations of flagship species (UNESCO, 2012), but a lot remains to be achieved. The grasslands in Bansbari Range are getting degraded rapidly and some of the principal reasons include spread of invasive plants, increasing pathways or tracks through the grasslands for movement of people and vehicles, indiscriminate grass burning, livestock grazing and changing water regimes. Although, the authorities have responded by manually removing some invasive plants and trees from grasslands, and are trying to control dry season grass burning following recommendations of habitat management workshops (State Party of India, 2018; Govt. of Assam, 2019), these efforts have not begun to show any notable results. Even if the park staff do not start a fire, intruders, who come in with livestock or enter to collect plants or fish, often do. Indiscriminate burning and unsustainable livestock grazing in turn aggravate the invasive plant problem (Nath et al., 2019). Inadequate protection resulted in expansion of agricultural encroachment in Bhuyanpara Range affecting some 1,600 hectares of the site (UNESCO, 2017). The authorities carried out an eviction operation in December 2016 with the help of some local NGOs (State Party of India, 2018), however, the encroachers soon returned in greater strengths, and it has been reported that now about 2,200 hectares land of the site is under cultivation and even some houses have been constructed (UNESCO, 2019). There seems to be a lack of political will in the territorial council government to take strict action against the encroachers. Within the Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHCP), a mobile patrolling unit ‘Manas Tiger’ has been set up in Bhuyanpara Range, which is showing effective results (UNESCO, 2017), and incidences of poaching has come down (State Party of India, 2018).
Boundaries
Some Concern
There is some confusion over the boundaries of the site, which is often referred to as ‘Manas National Park’. The area that was inscribed on the list of World Heritage in 1985 was the 39,100 ha Manas Wildlife Sanctuary. The Wildlife Sanctuary was expanded to 50,000 ha and designated a National Park in 1990. As this extension was never submitted to the World Heritage Committee for consideration the boundaries and the name of the property remain unchanged. The site is completely included in the National Park and the distinction between the property and the National Park is known among the park management and others working in the area. However, both are treated as one entity thus making the distinction in management difficult (UNESCO/IUCN, 2011). In 2016, the State Party presented the extension of the site by adding around 35,000 hectares to the World Heritage Committee, which would increase the total area of the National Park to 850 sq. km. (State Party of India, 2016). However, as per the decisions adopted during the 41st session of the World Heritage Committee in July 2017, the State Party is to complete and submit a revised proposal for extending the boundaries of the Property, taking into account the evaluation of IUCN (World Heritage Committee, 2017). A gazette notification from the state government was passed in 2016 on the addition of the above mentioned area to the National Park area. The civil society along with local partners had assisted the Forest Department in lobbying with the National Board for Wildlife in order to get the extension of the Park boundary cleared.
Integration into regional and national planning systems
Mostly Effective
The Manas Tiger Conservation Landscape (MTCL), extends to the east and west of the site in Assam, along the Indo-Bhutanese border, and also deep into Bhutan. There is strong collaboration and cooperation in the management of the Indo-Bhutan MTCL by the State Parties of India and Bhutan. Indian and Bhutanese park management staff from the adjoining Manas (India) and Royal Manas (Bhutan) National Parks regularly visit each other to exchange information (UNESCO/IUCN, 2011). Transboundary cooperation has evolved further since the formalization of the Transboundary Manas Conservation Area (TraMCA), which is perceived to be a crucial initiative to address a number of conservation challenges (State Party of India, 2014; Wangdi, 2016).
Relationships with local people
Mostly Effective
Whilst there are no direct management roles played by resident locals, environmental awareness programmes have been initiated by some local communities, particularly in the 61 villages along the southern boundary. These are targeted at seeking community participation in the protection of the flora and fauna of the property and sustainable livelihoods. The level of community involvement is impressive, with the formation of thirteen local NGOs initiated by the local people and supported by the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC). These NGOs are involved in various activities, such as animal rescue, patrolling, wildlife monitoring (e.g. Bengal florican), public awareness raising and most prominently ecotourism (State Party of India, 2011a). Between 2014 and 2016, civil society projects around Manas helped install 1,955 energy efficient cookstoves (Sukhad) in 18 village clusters near Manas. The cookstoves are functioning with 21% fuelwood efficiency, which in turn is saving considerably amount of firewood in those households. Programs to develop traditional weaving skills among women in village clusters to help improve their income were also initiated in villages near the Park. 110 women from 15 villages were trained and equipped with weaving units. Two model weaving units with 50 women each was set up in two village-clusters and endorsed by the Government (AAGOR model). Around 13 NGOs working in the area built a network with support of the joint IUCN-KfW (German Development Bank) Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHCP). The State Party of India (2018) reports that the Eco-Development Committees established in the fringe villages are providing livelihood support to local villagers. However, the extent of this support has not been quantified. The World Heritage Committee (2019) appreciated the commitment and upscaled efforts by the State Party in cooperation with other stakeholders to combat poaching and to improve staff morale and capacity.
Legal framework
Mostly Effective
The site is protected legally under the provisions of the national Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, however the State Party considers that implementation of the legislation at the site and in the buffer zones and surrounding areas remains inadequate (State Party of India, 2011a). Efforts have, however, been successful in rebuilding damaged park management infrastructure, filling vacant staff positions and undertaking law enforcement to address illegal logging and poaching (UNESCO/IUCN, 2011; UNESCO, 2011b).
Law enforcement
Some Concern
The authorities responded to increase in rhino poaching in the early 2010s by bringing more enforcement personnel and intensifying patrolling (State Party of India, 2014). Although the SMART patrolling could not be implemented due to competence levels of the frontline staff, the protection regimes did improve due to international attention. However, lack of adequate facilities in remote protection camps and training of forest guards (as recommended during the IUCN Consultation, 2014) to confront insurgent groups continues to impede effective enforcement. Several measures were taken to improve staff morale, including training, study trips, and procurement of additional arms and vehicles (State Party of India, 2017), but these did not have the desired outcome, mainly due to lack of political will and abundance of misdirected electoral politics (IUCN Consultation, 2020). Civil society organisations have trained and equipped over 600 frontline staff in Manas since 2012 through a series of training programmes and refresher courses, and there is extra stress on prevention of wildlife crime. Specialised training for selected Forest Dept. staff to improve protection of rhinos in Manas National Park have also been facilitated. All these certainly had a positive impact as, at least, the illegal rhino killing incidences have declined and no rhino has been killed by poachers since 2016 (State Party of India, 2018).
Implementation of Committee decisions and recommendations
Mostly Effective
The Committee’s recommendation of an integrated ecosystem-based monitoring system is being implemented by the site authorities including baseline surveys of wildlife populations (State Party of India, 2011a). The State Party notes an improved fund release, in particular since 2013 (State Party of India, 2014). Significant international assistance has also been provided to the property (UNESCO, 2012). Progress is being made in relation to the States Parties of India and Bhutan in considering an extension of the site, including a transboundary extension. The State Party of Bhutan has not submitted the environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for the Mangdechhu hydro-electric project, which was commissioned in January 2020 and would potentially have impacts on the OUV of the site (UNESCO, 2017), as requested several times including in the last Committee Decision (World Heritage Committee, 2019). The site has been the subject to considerable World Heritage Committee deliberations. The process of addressing threats to the site has been protracted; however, the State Party has responded positively to Committee Decisions and the various missions to the site. No information is yet available regarding the implementation of the latest Committee Decision, including requests to clarify the current status of encroachment and step up efforts to prevent further encroachment, as well as the preparation and implementation of an Action Plan to control invasive plant species (World Heritage Committee, 2019).
Sustainable use
Some Concern
The State Party reports the potential negative impact of subsistence wild plant collecting and fishing in the site by indigenous people. Apart from this, there is no threat from sustainable use of resources to the conservation of the site (State Party of India, 2011a; 2014). Non-sustainable and illegal use of resources in form of cultivation in encroached areas of Bhuyanpara Range, livestock grazing in all three ranges, and extraction of timber and firewood, particularly from the Panbari Range of the park, continue to pose significant threat to the property (UNESCO, 2019; IUCN Consultation, 2020).
Sustainable finance
Mostly Effective
The State Party reports that 53% of funding comes from national level government; 40% from regional government; 3% from International donations; 2% from visitor charges and 1% from both in-country donations and commercial operations (State Party of India, 2011a). International Assistance of USD 165,000 has been received from the World Heritage Fund since 2008 for purchase of equipment, rehabilitation of infrastructure and community activities (IUCN, 2017). The operationalisation of the Manas Tiger Conservation Foundation (MTCF) has resulted in some funds being received from ecotourism activities. The slow release of funding to the site has hampered its recovery (World Heritage Committee, 2012), however, the State Party noted progress in resolving this issue. MTCF was able to request loans to expedite management activities pending the release of state funds (State Party of India, 2014). Allotment of funds to the site from various central and state government agencies as well as the territorial council has increased in the past five years. Funds have been received from several sources such as the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Project Elephant, Biosphere Reserve of the Govt. of India, Finance Commission, Assam Project on Forest Biodiversity Conservation, Indian Rhino Vision (IRV) 2020 (State Party of India, 2016). The timely availability of funds has improved a little, but the problem has not been resolved and needs to be addressed. 
Staff capacity, training, and development
Some Concern
Manas has 382 sanctioned permanent posts, but about 30% of these are lying vacant either due to unfilled positions or transfer of staff. Of particular concern is the lack of mid level officers is a concern, for example the lack of forest Range officer in both Bansbari and Bhuyanpara Range (IUCN Consultation, 2020). To support and supplement the permanent staff, the park employs about 140 full-time casual labourers (supported by NTCA) and 135 field staff (supported by BTC). In addition, 140 Armed Home Guards (supported by NTCA), 15 Home Guards (supported the IRV 2020), and 51 Assam Forest Protection Force personnel are stationed at the Park to bolster the protection machinery (Govt. of Assam, 2019). The staff levels for conservation, administration and law enforcement are reported by the State Party as good. However, despite seemingly adequate number of staff, the reported inadequate training and motivation of frontline staff, and lack of equipment and staff facilities in the field, are major cause for concern (IUCN Consultation, 2014). There has been a dependence on technical work being carried out by external experts (World Heritage Committee, 2011), and it is unclear whether capacity has since been enhanced in this regard.
Education and interpretation programs
Some Concern
There are limited education programmes in place at the site and inadequate interpretative material available, hence very little information disseminated on the OUV of the site to either the general public or the local people. There appears to be no programmes or information given out regarding the adequate use of the site’s natural resources (State Party of India, 2011a). Under the ITHCP project, a planning workshop was organised to carry out conservation education in the fringe villages of Manas (IUCN Consultation, 2017).
Tourism and visitation management
Some Concern
Visitor numbers are slightly increasing each year, but the State Party reports that there is inadequate understanding of the site’s OUV and as a result little or no promotion of it to visitors through the tourism industry. Very little revenue collected by the operators is channelled back into the site’s resources (State Party of India, 2011a). Although the Manas Tiger Conservation Foundation (MTCF) also channels tourism revenue directly into park management (State Party of India, 2014), it is not clear how much funding this involves. The tourism strategy within the 2014-2024 Tiger Conservation Plan for Manas Tiger Reserve, which includes guidelines for visitor numbers based on an analysis of carrying capacity (Govt. of Assam 2019), is a positive development.
Monitoring
Some Concern
In March 2011, a draft framework for ecosystem-based monitoring in the site was submitted by the State Party. It reported that the implementation had begun and included preparation of spatial maps, research on drivers of habitat change, and monitoring of vegetation, including invasive species (World Heritage Committee, 2012). In February 2014, the State Party reported on a number of monitoring activities carried out in Manas National Park, including wildlife monitoring, tiger and prey surveys, invasive species monitoring, vegetation sampling, and ecological studies (State Party of India, 2014). Baselines for tiger and co-predators have been established (Govt. of Assam, 2019). The competence and motivation levels of frontline staff to collect field data for monitoring the above parameters is low. However, most of the technical and analytical work is done with the help of NGOs, which is a positive sign.
Research
Data Deficient
The State Party reports that there are research projects being undertaken (State Party of India, 2011a), but the park staff lack the capacity and competence to undertake research work. There appears to be little data available to support the claim, but some scientific organisations and several NGOs do conduct research in the park on a regular basis. These organisations share their findings and reports with the park, and a list of such organisations has been provided in the 'Projects' section of this report.
In 2011, the World Heritage Committee decided to remove Manas Wildlife Sanctuary from the List of World Heritage in Danger. This was due to the State Party implementing corrective measures to restore the OUV of the site, which had been badly compromised during the time of political unrest. These included setting up an ecosystem-based monitoring system of wildlife populations; developing and putting into place the rhino and swamp deer recovery plan; and developing a comprehensive tourism management plan in close cooperation with local communities. Further progress has been made in providing funding since the Manas Tiger Conservation Foundation (MTCF) became operational and started to receive funds from ecotourism activities. However, effective law enforcement has been limited by the lack of adequate facilities and training of forest guards to confront insurgent groups. Managing Manas in an integrated fashion requires a rationalisation of the boundaries to both better align them with formal protected areas and ensure all areas of the OUV are included within the inscribed property. Equally, effective protection and management requires close cooperation with the neighbouring State Party of Bhutan.
Assessment of the effectiveness of protection and management in addressing threats outside the site
Some Concern
The joint initiatives of the States Parties of India and Bhutan for transboundary cooperation, and the inclusion of the Royal Manas National Park on the Tentative List of the State Party of Bhutan is a positive step in improving the protection of the site as the boundaries of the site are contiguous with Bhutan. The greatest potential threat to the site from factors outside is the recently commissioned Mangdechhu hydro-electric project. To assess the impact of the project on the site the State Party of Bhutan has been repeatedly requested by the World Heritage Committee to provide the environmental impact assessment report for the Mangdechhu project, including an assessment of potential impacts on the site’s OUV and potential cumulative impacts in relation to the existing Kurichu dam (World Heritage Committee, 2012, 2017, 2019). Agricultural encroachments by settlers, in the areas technically outside the World Heritage Site, but within the contiguous protected area of Manas National Park or Tiger Reserve, too pose a serious threat as they often expand into the site as has been seen in Panbari and Bhuyanpara Ranges of the park (UNESCO, 2011, 2017, 2019).
Best practice examples
The inscription of the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger between 1992 and 2011 resulted in positive actions to protect the OUV, though the status remains fragile. The commendable efforts of the State Party and the management authorities to protect and restore the site will need to be sustained to ensure the long-term conservation of its OUV. Continuous long-term support of civil societies has also been recognized at international level. Dr Bibhuti Prasad Lahkar of Aaranyak has been awarded as IUCN Heritage Hero 2016 by IUCN World Heritage Programme and WCPA for his outstanding contribution to Manas WHS. The highly successful Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP), which started a conservation breeding and reintroduction project with founder stock captured from the site in 1996, has been able to establish a viable population of  this highly endangered mammal at another site in Assam, resulting in downgrading of the species under the IUCN RedList. While working for conservation of grasslands with the authorities, PHCP aims to implement a rewilding project in Manas with the support of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. In May 2020, 14 captive-bred pygmy hogs were successfully released in Rupahi grasslands of Bhuyanpara Range of the park as a part of this long-term conservation action project.
World Heritage values

Wilderness area of exceptional natural beauty

High Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
The existing Kurichu hydro-electric project (60 MW) and the recently commissioned Mangdechhu project (720 MW) both in neighbouring Bhutan, are likely to negatively affect the forests and water bodies of the property, thus impacting on the aesthetics of the property. Both the Kurichu and the Mangdechhu rivers contribute to the flow of the Manas-Beki river system, which considerably sustains the property. In 2004, the Kurichu dam released excess water causing extensive flooding in the Manas-Beki river system, washing away parts of the site and resulting in a blockage of one channel of the Manas-Beki river system, significantly reducing water flow. On several occasions the release of water from the Kurichu dam is reported to have caused floods in the wider Manas Biosphere Reserve, of which the property forms an integral part (World Heritage Committee, 2012). Being 12 times larger, the Mangedechhu dam is likely to have a more serious negative impact on the forests and water bodies of the site, thus reducing the ecosystems’ ability to support wildlife.
Degradation of the magnificent grasslands of the site, largely due to reduction in wetter areas, spread of invasive plants, and expansion of agricultural encroachments are also affecting the OUV and beauty of the site. The proposed road along the Indo-Bhutan border area would have a high impact on this value should it go ahead. 

Dynamic ecological processes supporting a rich diversity of ecosystems

Low Concern
Trend
Stable
As above, the threats associated with periodic flooding from uncontrolled upstream water release impact also on ecological function. Tourism, whilst currently minimal, could increase under pressure from local communities to exploit ecotourism opportunities. This needs to be carefully managed through the newly created tourism strategy and monitoring of overall tourist numbers and locations. On balance the commendable long-term efforts to restore and manage critical habitat and to ensure ecological systems are functional has paid dividends and the site’s values are considered stable. Initiatives to increase the size of the property will significantly improve the ecological viability.

High plant and animal diversity

Low Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
In 2011, the implementation of a draft framework for ecosystem-based monitoring in the site commenced. This includes monitoring of the conservation status of recovering populations of endangered species as well as other key components of the ecological makeup of the property. Three habitat management workshops organised at the site involving NGOs and experts have recommended ways to tackle invasive species, control grass burning and address other issues (State Party of India, 2018; Govt. of Assam, 2019). However, some more time may be required to assess the level and impact of management interventions.

Threatened species of mammals

Low Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
Factors outlined above also play an important part in maintaining habitat values and the protection of flagship species. In the late 1980s, Manas was badly affected by ethnic trouble in the region, insurgency and encroachment. As a result, considerable damage was done to the OUV of the property. The rhino population was wiped out and there was considerable decline in the population of Tiger, Water Buffalo, and specially the Hog Deer. Degradation of grasslands due to livestock grazing, indiscriminate grass burning, invasive plants and drying up of wet areas resulted in decline of Pygmy Hog and Eastern Swamp Deer populations. Since the reintroduction of Greater One-horned Rhino in 2006 and the setting up of the Manas Tiger Conservation Foundation in 2011, the recovery of biodiversity has been progressing slowly (UNESCO/IUCN, 2011). Between 2014 and 2017, a Swamp Deer translocation protocol was implemented. Subsequently, the Pygmy Hog recovery plan was intensified at the site in 2018 following their continued rapid decline (Meijaard et al., 2019). Between 2011 and June 2020, 24 rhino calves were born in the site (UNESCO, 2014 and 2017). Currently, there are around 40 rhinos in Manas. A total of 36 Eastern Swamp Deer have been relocated to the site from Kaziranga to date. The translocated deer show some level of success, but this needs longer term monitoring. In May 2020, 14 captive-bred Pygmy Hogs were released in the park's Bhuyanpara Range from where there were no recent record of the species. Monitoring protocol for the released hogs is being implemented and initial results are encouraging (Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, 2020). However, despite these encouraging measures of success it is still too early to confidently assess the status of property wide conservation in such a fragile system as Manas. The poaching of ten rhinos between 2011 and 2016 (UNESCO, 2017), recorded Tiger killings (State Party of India, 2018) and continued deterioration of Pygmy Hog grasslands in Bansbari Range of the park are stark reminder of this fragility.
Assessment of the current state and trend of World Heritage values
High Concern
Trend
Data Deficient
The operations of the Manas Tiger Conservation Foundation (MTCF), the re-introduction of the Greater One-horned Rhino, the implementation of an integrated ecosystem-based monitoring system, implementation of the Eastern Swamp Deer Translocation Protocol, reintroduction of Pygmy Hog in the Bhuyanpara Range of the park along with imminent implementation of the rewilding strategy for the site are positive steps in ensuring the retention of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value. Though badly affected during the ethnic agitation and associated insurgency, the site is recovering. The possible expansion of the site both within India and potentially in collaboration between the adjoining States Parties of India and Bhutan is also a positive initiative in bolstering the ecological resilience of this site to maintain its World Heritage values. The future impact of increasing tourism numbers and activities may negatively affect the fragile and recovering OUV of the site. The newly completed tourism strategy is welcome, however, needs effective implementation and monitoring to ensure overall numbers of tourists are capped to prevent damage in key areas. The apparent lack of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the Mangdechhu hydro-electric project in neighbouring Bhutan is of high concern and means that the potential cumulative impacts of Mangedechhu and Kurichu dams on OUV of the site are unclear, unpredictable and likely not yet addressed through any mitigation measures.

Additional information

Outdoor recreation and tourism
The site has the potential to become an important area for ecotourism. There has been a steady increase in the number of visitors to the site in the last ten years or so. The welcome completion of a comprehensive tourism strategy will help to plan and manage visitation to the site and to determine how benefits are shared in future years. The strategy is expected to regulate the number of visitors to the site and the activities undertaken. The opportunity to establish a thriving ecotourism industry has the potential to involve many of the locals thus providing work and income for them as well as enabling them to become engaged with the day to day running of the site. At the same time, the development of relevant education programmes and interpretive programmes would impart information to visitors to the site, but also be an opportunity to help protect the OUV of the site through formal and informal dissemination of information.
The site is a globally renowned example of conservation recovery linked to iconic species. Whilst ecological recovery is paramount there are opportunities to promote this conservation success story and ensure that benefits flow to local people. In so doing a sense of stewardship can be engendered among stakeholders.
Organization Brief description of Active Projects Website
1 Indian Rhino Vision 2020 (IRV 2020) - a collaboration of Assam Forest Dept., International Rhino Foundation, WWF-India, US Fish & Wildlife Service, and Bodoland Territorial Council Among other objectives, the reintroduction of Greater One-horned Rhinoceros into various protected areas in Assam was the main aim of IRV 2020 and Manas was the first site selected for reintroduction. Between 2006 and 2020, twenty wild rhinos were translocated successfully to Manas from Kaziranga and Pobitora, after supporting the rebuilding of the park for security of the rhinos. In addition, seventeen rescued and rehabilitated rhinos from the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC), Kaziranga, were also released here between 2006 and 2019. While 21 rhino calves were born at the site between 2012 and 2019, 10 rhinos were lost to poaching between 2011 and 2016, and another 6 died due to natural causes of infighting. Currently there are 40 rhinos in Manas.
https://rhinos.org/where-we-work/indian-rhino-vision-2020/
2 Tiger population survey - Assam Forest Dept., Aaranyak and WWF-India Baseline survey of population of Panthera tigris (tiger) and monitoring
https://www.aaranyak.org/showsubsubpage.asp?ssubid=39&amp;subid=3&amp;id=2&nbsp;
3 Pygmy Hog Conservation Programme (PHCP) - a collaboration of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, IUCN/SSC Wild Pig Specialist Group, Assam Forest Dept., MoEFCC Govt. of India, EcoSystems-India and Aaranyak Pygmy hog was found in a narrow strip of tall and wet grasslands south of the Himalayan foothills all along from Uttar Pradesh to Assam, through Nepal terai and Bengal duars in wet tall grass habitat. Unfortunately, the species became critically endangered and by early 1990s its global wild population became restricted only to Manas. PHCP started a conservation breeding project with six hogs captured from Manas in 1996, and has so far reintroduced 130 captive-bred animals in some protected areas of Assam, including 14 released in Bhuyanpara Range of Manas. The original wild population in Bansbari Range of Manas has dwindled to 100-150 due to habitat related problems and PHCP is working with the authorities to improve and scientifically manage the wet alluvial grasslands to save this and a number of other highly endangered species dependent on the habitat.
http://www.pygmyhog.org
4 Rhino, Elephant and Swamp Deer Rehabilitation Projects - a collaboration of Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), and Assam Forest Dept. Rhino rehabilitation, Elephant rehabilitation, Eastern Swamp deer Translocation from Kaziranga, Human-Wildlife Conflict mitigation and rescue and release of stranded wildlife
https://www.wti.org.in/projects/greater-manas-recovery-project/
5 North Bank Landscape Interventions - WWF-India WWF-India's North Bank Landscape Interventions involves Rhino Conservation, Tiger Conservation and Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation.
https://www.wwfindia.org/about_wwf/critical_regions/north_bank/interventions/
6 Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHCP) - IUCN-KFW, Aaranyak The Integrated Tiger Habitat Conservation Programme (ITHCP) - a IUCN-KFW project is lead by Aaranyak and being implemented in partnership with the Assam Forest Department, Bodoland Territorial Council, Wildlife Conservation Trust, Panthera and Awely. It is actively working towards improvement of protection, conservation and community wellbeing in Manas National Park and its fringe areas.
http://www.aaranyak.org &nbsp;
7 Monitoring and control of invasive species in the grassland - Aaranyak Monitoring and control of invasive species in the grassland ecosystem of Manas National Park.
http://www.aaranyak.org
8 Monitoring and mitigation of Human-elephant conflict - Aaranyak Monitoring and mitigation of Human-elephant conflict around Manas National Park. Includes empowering women self-help groups (SHG) in the fringe villages of Manas National Park through diversified livelihood options like fishery, food processing, weaving etc.
http://www.aaranyak.org
9 Hispid Hare status survey - individual project As a part of the project "Hispid on the edge: Status of endangered Hispid Hare in Northeast India", Mr. Anukul Nath, monitors the Hispid Hares in the site with support from the Duleep Matthai Nature Conservation Fellowship Programme 2018, among others. Mr. Nath also works with the UNESCO Category 2 Centre on World Natural Heritage Management and Training for Asia and the Pacific Region at Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

References

References
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