Aaranyak documentary wins best environment film at 68th National Film Awards ceremony
Poster of Aaranyak documentary

Guwahati: A documentary depicting human 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 was on Saturday adjudged as the ‘Best Environment Film’ at the 68th National Film Awards ceremony.

The non-feature film titled ‘Manas and People’ (মানাহ আৰু মানুহ) was made by the Directorate, Manas National Park, and Aaranyak.

Manas is a high-value conservation landscape the status of UNESCO World Heritage, a biosphere reserve, a tiger as well as an elephant reserve and a national park. It harbours rich biodiversity, including 28 globally-threatened species of mammals, 37 threatened species of birds and more than 600 floral species.

It provides ecosystem services to the entire region in the form of potable water and clean air. Nonetheless, the social upheaval during the late 1980s smothered much of the conservation activities. With the restoration of governance almost two decades ago, conservation actions gained momentum.

Aaranyak, which has been working in the Manas landscape, has focused on using wildlife research and local community engagement to safeguard biodiversity and human well-being and contributed significantly to the revival of Manas.

“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 NGOs and private institutions, we have made efforts in this regard,” Hiranya Kumar Sarma, former field director of Manas National Park said.

Budheswar Boro, an ex-poacher who converted to one of the saviours of the park, said, “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 realised that 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 said, “When we observe Bathou puja, we pray for the protection of Manas”.

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.

Aaranyak is grateful to Dip Bhuyan, the director and Dr Jayanta Kumar Sarma, associate director of the film and his team for presenting it so beautifully.

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 the 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 National Park.

This has been a multi-agency collaborative programme involving the forest department (BTC), park management, Wildlife Conservation Trust and Panthera supported by the Integrated Tiger and Habitat Conservation Programme, a joint initiative of the IUCN-KfW.

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