A United Nations body has put 39 serial natural sites in Western Ghats on World Heritage Site list with a condition to consider implementation of recommendations of an expert panel on the region.
The Western Ghats Ecological Expert Panel headed by National Advisory Council member Madhav Gadgil in 2011 has suggested several measures to minimize industrial activity in region. The Environment ministry, which constituted the panel, is yet to accept recommendations of the panel as it is awaiting response of the state governments, said a senior environment ministry official.
The decision could have implications on development in and around these sites as UNESCO prescribes creation of additional buffer zones around the natural world heritage sites and putting in place an overarching management authority for conservation of the selected 39 serial sites. The sites include wildlife habitats such as Sahyadri and Periyar tiger reserves.
Making it clear, UNESCO has also asked the Indian government to ensure community participation in conservation of local ecology, a key recommendation of the Gadgil panel. The panel has said that no industrial activity should be allowed without consent of the locals.
UNESCO also wants the government to ensure that the proposed management authority harmonises recommendations of the expert panel in its functions. “We have necessary regulations in place to abide by the UNESCO conditions,” a senior environment ministry official said.
The decision came after International Union for Conservation of Nature inspected the 39 sites proposed by the Indian government. “Mountains, rainforests, rivers and waterfalls are all part of the 160,000 sq km area, recognised as a global biodiversity hotspot,” IUCN said in a statement, adding that the Western Ghats is home to a number of flagship mammals including the endangered endemic lion-tailed Macaque, the endangered Asian elephant and Tiger.