Including the Goa stretch of Sahyadris in the world's natural heritage list will not pull the brakes on any development activity, but place the region on par with other unique sites across the world, say experts.
The resistance shown by state governments to the grant of natural heritage status by Unesco to the Western Ghats has baffled citizens and professionals across the spectrum."It would be tragic if the state government, consciously or otherwise, deprives its citizens the honour of being proud partners of this unique global enterprise of sustainable development through channelized growth and livelihood well-being on land, which is a dwindling national resource," Edgar Ribeiro, retired chief planner, government of India said.
Goa is yet to submit its proposal for inscription of the Sahyadris in the Unesco world heritage list.
Though the stretch of Western Ghats in four states, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra has been granted natural heritage status, the governments opposed it, allegedly under pressure from various lobbies after the declaration.
Rio de Janiero, the Brazilian city often referred to as Cidade Maravilhosa (Marvellous City); four major mines in Walonia, Belgium; decorated farmhouses in Halsingland, Sweden; the neolithic site of Catalhoyuk in Turkey; the lakes of Ounianga in Chad; the parks of the Sangha Trinational in the North Western Congo Basin; the Chengjiang fossil site in China; and India's Western Ghats were added to the list of four natural and four cultural sites by UNESCO in July, 2012.
"All these countries celebrated the heritage status, and we should have, too, but in India, four states, have not supported the declaration, and Goa has not yet accepted it," Ribeiro said.
The draft regional plan 2021 for Goa, which he helped prepare as a task force member and demarcate eco sensitive zones, envisages initiatives to sustain the livelihood of people living in these areas. But there are bogeys in the minds of politicians and entrepreneurs that the heritage status will impose restrictions on further growth.
"In fact, it will afford more recognition to the Goa area of Western Ghats," Ramakant Khalap, former union minister of state for law and judiciary, said. "This will be another type of tourism and if there is any loss, it will be only a temporary one for a higher gain," he added.
Agreed Richard D'Souza, additional principal chief conservator of forests, "The status quo doesn't change nor is there any hindrance to development," he said.
Former NIO scientist, A G Untawale, said the grant of the world heritage status does not detract from the present position of the six protected areas. "Goa is a small state and it (Sahyadris) are one of the hotspots of biodiversity. Whatever we have protected so far, we must manage it properly," he said. [TOI]