‘The Minister can take the lead in mobilising support to it’
The statement of Dakshina Kannada in-charge Minister C.T. Ravi, who holds the portfolio of Higher Education, favouring the UNESCO’s heritage tag given to Western Ghats, has been welcomed by most of the environmentalists from the city.
Three of the four activists who spoke to The Hindu on Thursday described it as a welcome step at a time when most of the politicians have opposed it. However, G.N. Ashokavardhan said the statement only adds to the confusion and it could mean nothing for the Western Ghats at all.
Those who welcomed it were environmentalist Niren Jain, artist and environment enthusiast Dinesh Holla and environment volunteer and senior software engineer Vivek Malleshappa.
Mr. Jain wondered whether Minister had taken other politicians into confidence while favouring the UNESCO tag for the Ghats. He and Mr. Vivek said the Minister could take lead in mobilising support to it. Mr. Jain however expressed concerns that heritage tag should not mean increased tourist interest that could adversely affected the ghats.
Asked whether the statement could be of some real help in furthering the cause of environment, Mr. Jain put it in the background of tendency of politicians summarily rejecting anything that helped conservation. Pointing out that the UNESCO tag in itself was not a very strong tool of conservation, Mr. Jain said it was merely an assertion that the identified areas of the Western Ghats were good for the humanity as a whole and need to be conserved. However, it was the Indian laws that have to see its implementation. Unscientific management initiatives by the Forest Department – such as crating waterholes in high rainfall areas with many streams – could be a thing of the past.
He said a wrong notion had gained ground that heritage would adversely affect development in villages. In fact the villages were out of the purview of the heritage sites and development could take place in these areas as per the prevailing laws.
Mr. Holla said the heritage tag could lead to prevention of denudation of forests by poachers, hunters, and the many hydel projects being allowed. The proposed Netravathi diversion too would adversely affect the forests. He hoped that the Government itself would come around to view the heritage like Mr. Ravi did. “Western Ghats will be safe then,” he said. Mr. Vivek is happy that someone has come forward to say things that would help flora and fauna and he should convince others too.
Mr. Ashokavardhan said though BJP leader and former Union Minister H.N. Ananath Kumar too had welcomed the heritage tag, nothing had come of it. Mr. Ravi’s statement now could further confuse people. “Politicians are double-tongued,” he added.