Ramesh raps State for opposing Unesco tag

Centre suspects pressure from vested interests

Ramesh raps State for opposing Unesco tag

The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) now suspects that the state government is succumbing to pressure from vested interests.

“The Karnataka Government’s opposition to get Unesco heritage tag to the Western Ghats is giving wide scope to suspect that it is yielding to the pressure from vested interests like forest encroachers, mining, timber smugglers and poachers,” Minister Jairam Ramesh said on Saturday.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, he said the MoEF had first submitted its dossier on the Western Ghats for Unesco’s heritage status in March 2006 after getting the approval from the Karnataka government.

“ I too had written a letter to the State government on December 21, 2010, on this issue. After maintaining silence all these days, why is the State government opposing it now,” he questioned.

With the consent from resp­ective state go­v­er­nm­e­n­ts — Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra — the Wildlife Institute of India, under the Ministry, had identified 39 sites in the Western Ghats and submitted the proposal to Unesco seeking heritage tag. Currently, Unesco is studying the issue.

He also questioned why only Karnataka is opposing while neighbouring states, where the Western Ghats also falls, were not raising their voices. He allayed fears about the heritage tag threatening human settlements, including tribals in the Western Ghat areas. He said, “this is totally rubbish and concocted stories by vested interests people who have been looting forest wealth”.

The minister further explained: “Getting Unesco heritage status is of iconic value and it is nothing but branding. By getting this brand, we can take more affirmative action for preserving the forest wealth.” Taking a dig at the Karnataka government, he said the State government should have “asked me to put on hold the issue for further discussion instead of making a public outcry.”

Ramesh also said that he had received the letter written by the State government requesting deletion of the 10 identified sites in the Western Ghats that have been nominated for Unesco’s heritage status. However, the government did not cite any reason for deletion. “I am ready to address the issues raised by the state government and let them speak to me. I don’t want any confrontation with the government,” he said.

However, he said the Centre will not allow the state to divert the forest wealth to non-forestry activities. The state government, in its letter to the MoEF said the 10 sites which were earlier identified for seeking world heritage sites—Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, Talacauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, Padinalknad Reserve Forest, Kerti Reserve Forest (all in Talacauvery sub cluster) Kudremukh National Park, Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary, Someshwara Reserve Forest, Agumbe Reserved Forest and Balahalli Reserved Forest — should be deleted.

Turning green
* Centre surprised over sudden opposition by Karnataka government
* Ministry of Environment and Forests has identified 39 sites in  Western Ghats
*Heritage tag is of iconic value and helps better preservation of forest wealth, asserts Minister
* Question of human resettlement doesn’t arise as no non-forestry activity is allowed in 10 sites falling in Karnataka

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