Hopes brighten for Western Ghats getting heritage status

New Delhi: Government`s hopes to get UNESCO heritage status for 39 sites in the Western Ghats have brightened with the World Heritage Committee deciding to give a `referral` status to India`s case.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had recommended to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (WHC) to `defer` the consideration of India`s proposal in its ongoing 35th session in Paris.

`Deferral` means request for more information, revisit of IUCN technical evaluation mission and submission of revised nomination dossier about all 39 sites in the Western Ghats by India.

"In nutshell, `Deferral` means starting the process de-novo (afresh)," an Environment Ministry statement said.

However, India`s official delegation to the WHC session, comprising senior Ministry officials Jagdish Kishwan, A K Srivastava and Dr Vinod B Mathur, prepared the country`s brief against IUCN recommendation on `deferral` and interacted with the delegations of the 21-member WHC to highlight the strengths of the proposal.

"Based on the technical arguments put forward by the Indian delegation, several members of the WHC got convinced of the merits of India`s proposal and decided to go for the option of `referral` instead of `deferral`," the statement said.

The Australian delegation formally moved a proposal to the WHC seeking amendment of the draft decision.

"When the matter came up for discussion, 11 countries led by Egypt and Brazil and followed by Australia, Bahrain, Barbados, Cambodia, China, Jordan, Nigeria, Russia and South Africa came out strongly in support of `referral", it said.

The Ministry said that the Indian delegation "aptly responded" to a range of questions, clarifications and amplifications sought by the members of WHC.

"Based on the strength of response offered by the Indian delegation and the overwhelming support to Australian proposal to amend the draft decision, the World Heritage Committee decided to amend the decision of "deferral" to "referral," the Ministry said.

This means that the Ministry will have to provide only additional information sought in the revised decision and mainly pertaining to governance/coordination mechanisms to synergies management activities of the 39 sites, buffer zone/connectivity etc.

`Referral` means that there will be no need to submit a revised nomination dossier and there shall be no new IUCN technical evaluation mission to the Western Ghats.

The Ministry would now be submitting the additional information requested by the WHC, based on which the Committee will take a decision to inscribe all 39 serial sites of the Western Ghats on the World Heritage List in its 36th Session in Bangkok in June-July, 2012.

"The very positive decision on the Western Ghats by the WHC is a reflection of India`s concerted efforts to inscribe the Western Ghats, one of the world`s hottest hotspot of biological diversity, on the world heritage list," the Ministry said.

India had submitted the nomination dossier for inscription of 39 serial sites in the Western Ghats in the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, Paris in February 2010.


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