Guwahati, July 23: Manas and People” (মানাহ আৰু মানুহ), a non-feature film depicting relentless efforts of Aaranyak, a premier biodiversity conservation organisation, and the authority of Manas National Park in Assam to restore the lost glory and sheen of the picturesque Manas National Park has been judged the Best Environment Film in the prestigious 68th National Film Award accorded by the Directorate of Film Festivals, Government of India.
The film directed by Dip Bhuyan was made by the Directorate Manas National Park and Aaranyak. Jayanta Kumar Sarma who is associated with Aaranyak, is the Associate Director of the film.
Manas is a high-value conservation landscape that is a UNESCO World Heritage, a Biosphere Reserve, a Tiger as well as an Elephant Reserve besides being a National Park (NP). It has rich biodiversity and is an abode of 28 globally threatened species of mammals, 37 threatened species of birds and more than 600 floral species.
Manas NP provides ecosystem services to the entire region in the form of potable water, and clean air. Nonetheless, the social unrest in the area during the late 1980s smothered much of the conservation activities in Manas. Because of the restoration efforts in the Park that started almost two decades ago, the conservation actions gathered steam.
Aaranyak has been working in the Manas landscape as part of the revival efforts since then focusing on wildlife research and local community engagement to safeguard its biodiversity and human well-being. The NGO has contributed significantly in revival of Manas complementing the efforts of the National Park and Tiger Reserve authority.
The documentary narrates the story of how Manas is crucial for maintaining cultural significance of the indigenous Bodo and other communities. It tells humane 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.”, says Hiranya Kumar Sarma, former Field Director of Manas National Park.
Budheswar Boro- an ex-poacher now 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, mentions 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 habitat to aid in the conservation of tiger, co-predators and prey population and improve tiger habitats in Manas Park.
We at Aaranyak are extremely delighted. 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: