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Indo-Bhutan meet discusses cooperation for conservation of Mas

OUR BUREAU

GUWAHATI, June 22: For the 10th time since 2008, important delegates representing the Governments of Bhutan and India along with conservation NGOs of the region met in Guwahati, Assam.

The landmark meeting was held on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss conservation of biodiversity-issues and opportunities in the large transboundary landscape between India and Bhutan across the intertiol boundary from the river Sankosh in the west to the river Dhansiri in the east, referred to as the Transboundary Mas Conservation Area (TraMCA). In India, it includes the Mas Tiger Reserve and in Bhutan,  the forested areas of south  covering the Royal Mas tiol Park, Phipsoo Wildlife Sanctuary and Jomotshangkha Wildlife Sanctuary.

The ecosystem service provided by TraMCA supports a total human population of over 10 million overIndia and Bhutan.

This meeting had the delegates taking stock of the status of implementation of the work plan developed for the region and also discussing aboutthe emerging issues especially with reference to proposed developmental activities having potential negative impact and continued anthropogenic pressure on the forest resources.

The delegates expressed their concerns on ongoing deforestation activities in the TraMCA landscape and expressed the need for scaled up government efforts to arrest deforestation on an urgent basis.

Restoration of the denudated forest areas and their protection was also discussed as the only possibility of regaining lost habitats. It is worth mentioning here that Mas Tiger Reserve has already lost about 40% of its forest cover to encroachments and development activities, since it was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1973.

DP Bankhwal, IG Forest, tiol Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Guwahati said, “Ecosystems are like Humpty Dumpty. If the balance is lost, it is lost forever. No amount of riches or power can bring it back.”

The meeting was also addressed by D Mathur, PCCF & HOFF, Assam, who appreciated the effort of the Indian and Bhutanese in bringing the group together which is now well recognized intertiolly.

The delegation from Bhutan, lead by Tenzin Wangchuk, Park Mager, Royal Mas tiol Park has expressed concerns with current and proposed developments in the landscape and emphasised on further strengthening the collaboration of the TraMCA partners to achieve its long term goals.

In the meeting, a report on joint monitoring of tigers was also released by Mathur.

The study identified 21 individual tigers in the study area that covered approx. 600 sq km of India and Bhutan Mas in TraMCA. The study also found four individual tigers that are common to Bhutan and India Mas, indicating that the connectivity is crucial in the TraMCAregion to protect tiger as well as other biodiversity of the area.