As super-power rivalry between India and China widens so the region of Assam in India’s north-east ‘shoulder’ becomes ever more significant given its proximity to both China and Myanmar and its borders with Bhutan and Bangla Desh.
Internally Assam has endured thirty years of conflict with fluctuating intensity in its Bodoland region, driven by a series of inter-locking issues such as autonomy, land reform, ecological degradation and an influx of non-Bodos.
The Manas National Park in Assam combines with the Royal Manas National Park over the border in Bhutan to form a key conservation area in the eastern Himalayan eco-region that demonstrates how biodiversity can play a central role in trans-boundary security issues.
From an ecological perspective the combined Manas complex represents some of the last and best remaining habitats of the Bengal tiger, clouded leopard, leopard, Asian elephant, Asiatic water buffalo, gaur, greater one-horned rhinoceros as well as a huge variety of other fauna and flora.
Drawing on international support the preserving of the Bengal tiger is a catalyst for grappling with all the human and ecological problems that have contributed to insecurity on both regional and local levels.
These themes form the core of the MARJAN-MANAS PROJECT that has been set up jointly by the Marjan Centre and representatives in India who offer vast experience and knowledge of all the issues that impact on the Manas area.
India Co-ordinator Sonali Ghosh has worked as a forest officer in Assam, having gained an MSc in both Wildlife Science and Forestry and she is completing a PhD about the use of geo-spatial technology for mapping tiger habitat in the Indo-Bhutan Manas Tiger Conservation Landscape; additionally she gave a presentation at the Royal Geographical Society 2012 annual meeting titled: ‘armed conflict and its impact on wildlife habitat: a case study from the Manas Tiger Reserve and World Heritage Site, India’. Ms. Ghosh will be assisted by Dr Bibhab Talukdar, the director of Aaranyak, a leading Indian conservation organisation which special knowledge of Assam.
– Jasper Humphreys, The Marjan Centre