India, Bhutan and Nepal are Planning a Trans-border Conservation Park

Expanding on the Manas and Kanchenjunga landscapes, the zone aims to boost conservation and eco-tourism from 2020
The India-Bhutan border inside the Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan
The India-Bhutan border inside the Royal Manas National Park, Bhutan

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 &lsquopeace park&rsquo that will span the biodiversity-rich landscapes of the three nations. India already has a protected transboundary area with Bhutan&mdashwhich includes Manas National Park in Assam&mdashand the new peace park will expand on that area&rsquos 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. &ldquoThis project will maintain the natural connectivity of wildlife species, undisturbed by political boundaries,&rdquo Soumitra Dasgupta, Inspector-General of Forests (Wildlife) at the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, told Down to Earth. &ldquoThe 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,&rdquo 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.&ldquoThe trans-boundary parks present a fundamental shift in which wildlife conservation is done,&rdquo explained Siddhanta Das, the Director General of Forests at the Ministry. &ldquoFrom a species-focused approach, we are moving to a landscape-based approach.&rdquo 

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&rsquot traditionally associated with them before. The creation of new animal corridors&mdashas well as the preserving of those already in the Manas-Kanchenjunga landscape&mdashwill help in dispersing and maintaining an area&rsquos natural gene flow. 

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