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India, Bhutan and Nepal are in the final stage of coming together for a trans-border protected area. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been drafted to build a wildlife conservation ‘peace park’ that will span the biodiversity-rich landscapes of the three nations. India already has a protected transboundary area with Bhutan—which includes Manas National Park in Assam—and the new peace park will expand on that area’s existing framework, as well as rope in the Kanchenjunga landscape. Eleven Myanmar reports that this is a five-year project starting in 2020, with funding from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal, and the SAARC Development Fund in Bhutan.
The thinking that went into the MoU was that animal species, their movement and their conservation should not be hindered by international lines. “This project will maintain the natural connectivity of wildlife species, undisturbed by political boundaries,” Soumitra Dasgupta, Inspector-General of Forests (Wildlife) at the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, told Down to Earth. “The project will also help the local communities through ecotourism. It will also maintain the traditional and cultural continuity of villages that share similar traditions from time immemorial, but have been separated by the political boundary. In this sense, this park will be a harbinger of peace in the area,” he said.
Migratory species like elephants have been kept in mind while planning this tripartite venture. To combat human-elephant conflicts, elephant-repellant and environmentally-friendly bio-fences are in the works. Traditional village guarding systems have also been found effective, and will receive a boost in funding.“The trans-boundary parks present a fundamental shift in which wildlife conservation is done,” explained Siddhanta Das, the Director General of Forests at the Ministry. “From a species-focused approach, we are moving to a landscape-based approach.”
This idea is slowly gaining traction in conservation circles, as researchers and rangers observe the inclination of species to explore new habitats via connected landscapes; places that weren’t traditionally associated with them before. The creation of new animal corridors—as well as the preserving of those already in the Manas-Kanchenjunga landscape—will help in dispersing and maintaining an area’s natural gene flow.
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