Western Ghats get heritage tag finally

Indias persistent campaign from 2006 brings success

The Western Ghats has  finally made its way to the coveted list of World Heritage Sites of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Unesco), even as the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) raised objections to its nomination.

The 1,600-km long Ghats, which starts at the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra and runs through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala ending at Kanyakumari, was inscribed on prestigious list by a 21-nation World Heritage Committee panel at its 36th session at St Petersburg in Russia on July 1.

This is the result of a campaign by the Centre from 2006. There are 39 sites in the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra that form part of India’s “Serial Nomination of the Western Ghats”.

“We welcome the Western Ghats to the Heritage list, but note the conservation challenges that they face will need additional monitoring by the World Heritage Committee to ensure that the many protected areas that have been listed by the Unesco fully meet the requirements that accompany listing as flagships for global conservation. IUCN is ready to assist the State in that task,” IUCN’s World Heritage director Tim Badman told Deccan Herald.

The IUCN noted that more work was needed “to meet the standards the convention has set in its operational guidelines.

The Unesco had agreed in 2006 to India’s proposal to include the Western Ghats on India’s tentative list of natural properties to be inscribed on the World Heritage list.
The IUCN, however, recommended to the World Heritage Committee to “defer” the consideration on the basis of inputs it received through desk reviews and a field evaluation by its technical evaluation team last year.

This time, the Indian delegation met the members of the World Heritage Committee and convinced them about the merits of the proposal. The Russian delegation soon moved a proposal in support of India.

Though the inclusion of the Ghats on the list was an achievement for the whole nation, despite repeated efforts by Deccan Herald, neither Culture Minister Kumari Selja nor the officials were available to explain how the Unesco tag would help conserve the Ghats in the face of pressure from state governments to undertake development projects in the region.

“It’s a well deserving recognition. Gadgil committee report is not 100 per cent practical, we have to take a balance view,” Kerala Chief Oomen Chandy, who was in the national capital, told Deccan Herald.

The Ghats is older than the Himalayas. The site’s high montane forest ecosystems influence the Indian weather pattern. It is recognised as one of the world’s eight “hottest hotspots” of biological diversity.

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