Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda and Minister for Forests C.P. Yogeshwar have gone on record expressing reservations over the tag.
Environmentalists here have questioned the State Government’s motive of opposing the World Heritage tag for the Western Ghats.
After the Western Ghats made it to the coveted list of World Heritage Sites on Sunday, Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda and Minister for Forests C.P. Yogeshwar have gone on record expressing reservations over the tag.
Mr. Yogeshwar has stated that the tag will fuel naxal activities and hamper development in the region. Besides Karnataka, Kerala and Maharashtra too have opposed the tag, he has said.
Niren Jain, coordinator, Kudremukh Wildlife Foundation, told The Hindu on Friday that the attitude of the Government revealed that it had no concern to save the rich biodiversity of the Western Ghats.
Mr. Jain said that it was a nation’s pride that the ghats had made to the list. But some vested interests, who had been opposing it, were trying to hijack the issue. Should the entire State pay the price for the sake of some vested interests? he said.
He said the Kudremukh National Park (spread over 600 sq. km. in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Chikmagalur districts) was known for its long-tiled macaque, an endangered species. It is said that there were only 3,000 long-tiled macaques in the world. A study by environmentalist Ullas Karanth in 1984 found 44 groups of long-tiled macaques in the ghats.
Mr. Jain said that it was wrong to propagate that tribal families living in the forests would be forcibly evicted. “Gone are the days of forcible eviction,” he said. Getting the tag had nothing to do with eviction.
Dinesh Holla, coordinator, Vanya Chaarana Balaga, Mangalore, said that some vested interests were now trying to infuse fear among the forest dwellers that they would be evicted. “I have received many phone calls from some forest dwellers who sought to know whether they will be evicted,” Mr. Holla said. He said that some vested interests who had a stake in illegal mining and quarrying and those who had built resorts in the ghats wanted the Government to oppose the tag. It was not proper on the part of the Government to oppose the tag.
He said that the Government should state clearly why it opposed the tag.
Krishnamohan Prabhu of Moodbidri, a physician and a member of Wildlife First, said that timber lobby and those lobbying for mini-hydel power projects in the ghats could also be behind the Government.
Dr. Prabhu said that UNESCO had no control over the sovereignty of India. Hence, people living in the forests need not have any apprehension about eviction.
Rohit S. Rao, managing director, Kudremukh Wildlife Foundation, said that the Western Ghats was like the Great Wall of China to the people of the State. The Netravathi, Tunga and the Bhadra originated from here. Conserving the forests was the need of the hour than raising new ones. The State Government should support the tag. Dr. Prabhu and Mr. Rao said that it was important to ensure that the tag should not be used for promoting eco-tourism beyond certain limits. Tourism activities should not spoil the biodiversity of the ghats.