Millennium Post

Western Ghats a heritage site

It is a matter of congratulations that the Western Ghats have finally been granted the UNESCO World Heritage Site (WHS) status. Now 39 sites along the Western Ghats will be part of the region that has been designated as a World Heritage Site. The decision will ensure these mountains will get  international support for their conservation. This will act as a pressure point on the state governments of the region, which are keen on rapid development even if this comes at the cost of the destruction of the environment and the loss of biodiversity. This region fully deserves the tag of a World Heritage site for it is an ecologically sensitive region which is worthy of preservation. Notably, the Western Ghats are among the most significant repositories of India's biodiversity today and they harbour a large number of species restricted to India alone. However, not only are the Western Ghats a biological treasure trove, they are also among world's biodiversity hot spots, that is to say, a biodiversity-rich area that is under a high degree of threat. There has been a continual decline in the bio-diversity over the last century and more especially in recent decades, with many biological communities and types being almost totally eliminated, in a large part, if not wholly, because of human activity. Conflict between man and nature has exacerbated over the years as forest and other produce, has proved to be lucrative.

Environmental audits have not been carried out even as the rights of the traditional, indigenous peoples have been violated and as forest and other mafias have taken over. The report of the Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel has highlighted some of this conflict, for which it has been opposed and its report was not even allowed to see the light of the day till rescued by the information commissioners, thus highlighting the intense passions that the ecological preservation and the issue of sustainable development raise. The decision of the World Heritage Committee, which met recently in St Petersburg in Russia, was not easy to come by, held back, in part by the intense domestic wrangling within India. Now, that the decision has come, after intense lobbying by the Indian government, it should make the issue of the preservation of the region easier. An effort, should also be made to have included the sensitive areas within Goa and on the Konkan coast amongst the sites identified for the heritage tag, where mining and other development activities have played havoc with the ecology.
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