The world heritage status to the 39 serial sites in the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats has divided state governments with Karnataka and Kerala opposing the tag and activists angry over exclusion of Goa from the nomination.
The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on Monday granted world heritage status to 39 serial natural sites in Western Ghats, asking India to take into account the recommendations of Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel to further enhance the protection measures.
Madhav Gadgil, who headed the panel, told HT that the government should broaden its approach to protect unique biodiversity of the Western Ghats outside the protected areas. The 39 sites are declared protected areas under different regulations.
"Three-fourth of Lion tailed macaque (whose habitat is also among the 39 sites) are outside the protected area. Unless, the government makes effort to protect them outside protected areas the world heritage tag will not make much difference," Gadgil said.
Karnataka is, however, livid over the status and would be writing to the Central government opposing world heritage status to Western Ghats. What has irked the state government is the possibility of the Centre enforcing additional regulations in wake of UNESCO decision which seeks strengthening buffer zones around the 39 serial sites.
State forest minister CP Yogeshwar said whenever a new law is implemented, it should be ensured that the people in the concerned habitat are not displaced. "Already, there are effective laws to protect the Western Ghats. The Centre should come forward to discuss these issues with the state," he said.
The forest minister said the state government had banned mining in the Western Ghats. It has also imposed a ban on mini-hydel projects in the Ghats, Yogeshwar said. The Congress ruled Kerala had also expressed reservation over the status fearing that it will impact development projects around the sites. Among the 39 sites selected, 20 are in Kerala.
On the other hand, environmental activists of Goa have expressed their unhappiness at not even a single site from Goa finding place in the UNESCO decision. The Goa government had not responded to the invitation by former environment minister Jairam Ramesh in June 2011 to submit a proposal to include Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary to be declared as a tiger reserve so that it can be nominated for world heritage status. Goa has four wildlife sanctuaries and one national park of Goa, which falls in Western Ghats.