Guwahati, Sep 24 (IANS): Assam's Kaziranga National Park, which hosts at least two-thirds of Indian rhinoceroses in this world, is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It got this international tag way back in 1985.
The Assam National Park Act of 1968, approved by the state legislature in 1968, proclaimed Kaziranga as a national park.
The Central government granted the 430 sq km park official status on February 11, 1974.
Due to its distinctive natural setting, Kaziranga was named a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1985.
Large breeding populations of elephants, wild water buffalo, and swamp deer can be found in the park.
It is acknowledged that Kaziranga is an Important Bird Area for the conservation of avian species.
In terms of wildlife conservation, Kaziranga has excelled when compared to other protected areas in India.
The park combines great species variety and visibility and is situated on the periphery of the Eastern Himalaya biodiversity hotspot.
Four major rivers, including the Brahmaputra, criss-cross Kaziranga, amid a large expanse of tall elephant grass, marshland, and dense tropical moist broadleaf forests.
The park also has a number of smaller bodies of water. Several books, songs, and documentaries have had Kaziranga as their central focus.
After being created in 1905 as a reserve forest, the park celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2005.
Sivakumar Periyasamy, the Chief Conservator of Forests in Assam was the Director of Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve for three years.
Talking to IANS, he said: "I have been in the Kruger National Park in South Africa a few days ago. The Kaziranga National Park has an area of around 1,300 sq km and Kruger is at least 20 times bigger than Kaziranga. The park has been extended beyond South Africa up to Zimbabwe."
According to the forest officer, Kruger National Park has a fantastic business model which generates a revenue of Rs 500 crore yearly.
At least 70 lakh tourists visit the park annually.
"Although Kruger Park authorities have taken numerous steps to generate a viable tourism model, Unesco's world heritage site recognition always helps to send an idea about the place to potential tourists across the globe," Sivakumar said.
"People get the feeling that if a place is declared as Unesco's world heritage site, it maintains some of the standards and it may be worth visiting it. This notion helps to build a great tourism model," Sivakumarsaid.
He added: "We tried to increase the revenue in Kaziranga National Park. During 2019-2022, the revenue from tourists saw a significant jump in the park. It touched Rs 6 crore mark."
The forest officer mentioned that they took several measures to make Kaziranga a point of attraction for the tourists and the heritage site helped them in a great way.
The Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve was declared a World Heritage Site in December 1985 by Unesco.
However, due to significant poaching and terrorist activity, Unesco declared it as a world heritage site in danger in 1992.
The area was expanded to 500 sq km on February 25, 2008.
It was praised for its preservation efforts and taken off the List of World Heritage in Danger on June 21, 2011.
"When Manas was declared as a world heritage site in danger, it required several years of effort to restore the original status. Meanwhile, the park suffered a huge loss in tourist activities," Sivakumar said.
The conservator of forests (Wildlife) in Assam, Vaibhav C. Mathur told IANS: "Maybe in terms of funding and others, the heritage site tag does not help a place much. But the brand value of the Unesco recognition serves as a huge boost for a national park. We have clearly noticed that in Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve. Post 2011, the park witnessed a huge jump in tourist activities."
According to Mathur, the heritage site recognition demands the maintaining of some standards which in the long run helps a place to keep its unique nature intact.
But, during the Bodo agitation, Manas National Park was under severe threat, and rhinos were completely wiped out from the park.
"Once, Manas National Park had a very healthy population of tigers. At their peak, there were at least 70 to 80 adult tigers. But after Bodo agitation began, the tigers being a very sensitive animal, the population almost completely moved out of Manas. The rhinos were also wiped out," said Mathur.
Along with the unrest, a lot of other things were also happening in Manas that actually violated the Standard Operation Procedures (SoPs) laid down by the NTCA for the tiger reserves in the country.
Eventually, due to significant poaching and terrorist activity, UNESCO declared the Manas National Park as a world heritage site in danger in 1992.
In December 1985, it was first declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
"When Manas was declared as a world heritage site in danger, it required several years of effort to restore the original status. Meanwhile, the park suffered a huge loss in tourist activities," Siva Kumar said.
Vaibhabh Mathur mentioned: "Maybe in terms of funding and others, the heritage site tag does not help a place much. But the brand value of the UNESCO recognition serves as a huge boost for a national park. We have clearly noticed that in Manas National Park and Tiger Reserve. Post 2011, the park witnessed a significant jump in tourist activities."
According to him, the heritage site recognition demands the maintaining of some standards which in the long run helps a place to keep its unique nature intact.