GUWAHATI: During the 68th National Film Awards ceremony, the prestigious awards administered by the Directorate of Film Festivals, Government of India had declared a non-feature film “Manas and People” as the “Best Environment Film”.  

The film was made by the Directorate Manas National Park and Aaranyak, an environmental organisation. 

Manas is a high-value conservation landscape, accorded with the status of UNESCO World Heritage, a Biosphere Reserve, a Tiger as well as an Elephant Reserve and a National Park.  

It harbours a rich biodiversity including 28 globally threatened species of mammals, 37 threatened species of birds and more than 600 floral species.  

It provides ecosystem services to the entire region in the form of potable water, and clean air. Nonetheless, the social upheaval during the late 1980s smothered much of the conservation activities. With restoration of governance almost two decades ago, the conservation actions gained momentum.  

Aaranyak has been working in the Manas landscape since then focusing on wildlife research and local community engagement to safeguard biodiversity and human well-being, and contributed significantly in revival of Manas. 

The documentary narrates the story of how Manas is crucial for maintaining cultural significance of the indigenous Bodo and other communities.  

It tells human stories about the relationship between people and nature coded in cultural heritage, the rich biodiversity and the practices from multiple stakeholders to conserve the rich heritage. 

“The park provides a living for many people living in the fringe villages. As such, engaging people in alternative livelihoods to reduce their dependence on the park is a challenge for us, and together with GOs, NGOs and private institutions, we have made efforts in this regard,” said Hiranya Kumar Sarma, former Field Director of Manas National Park. 

While, Budheswar Boro- an ex-poacher converted to one of the saviours of the park mentioned, “I was involved in hunting in Manas for 6-7 years at a stretch. Along with me, another 17 poachers surrendered, which was followed by an orientation on how to save Manas. We realized it is our property and we should save it. Since 2003, we have been working for its conservation.” 

Chakra Goyari, a local mention how protection of Manas is inculcated in their culture.  

He says, “When we observe Bathou puja we pray for the protection of Manas.” 

The Manas World Heritage Site after a lot of crests and troughs is back on its path of revival.  

It is worth mentioning that the Tiger Research and Conservation Division of Aaranyak scaled up Aaranyak’s work under the initiative – “Manas Tiger Conservation Programme” (MTCP) in 2015 that integrated multiple approaches such as supplementing livelihoods of the fringe villagers, supporting law enforcement, conservation education and biological monitoring of the wildlife and habitatto aid in the conservation of tiger, co-predators and prey population and improve tiger habitats in Manas National Park.  

This has been a multi-agency collaborative programme involving the Forest Department (BTC), Park management, Wildlife Conservation Trust and Panthera supported by the Integrated Tiger and Habitat Conservation Programme, a joint initiative of the IUCN-KfW. 

“With the break of this news, we at Aaranyak are extremely delighted,” a statement from the organisation read. 

Aaranyak’s CEO, Dr Bibhab Kumar Talukdar congratulated the entire team, the Manas National Park authority, and the NGOs working in the landscape. While Dr Bibhuti P Lahkar, who is a veteran working in Manas and Aaranyak’s Administrator of Manas Landscape, deliberated the vision of Aaranyak’s future initiatives for wildlife conservation and livelihood development in the region.  

You may like to watch the documentary film here: 

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