The evaluation of serial sites of Western Ghats for its universally outstanding conservation and biological diversity values will begin this week.
The appraisal, to be carried out by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) team, is part of the preparatory process for nominating the Ghats as a World Heritage site. India had been campaigning for including the 39 serial sites of the Ghats in the world list for quite some time.
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forest had earlier submitted a dossier for all the serial sites to the Would Heritage Committee of the UNESCO. The IUCN is the independent evaluator for the World Heritage sites in its capacity as formal advisory body to the World Heritage Convention.
The two member IUCN team consisting of R. Wendy Strahm and Brian Furze will begin its inspection in the Kerala part of the Western Ghats at Parambikulam. The team is expected to reach Parambikulam on October 12, said T.M. Manoharan, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest.
They will also visit Munnar, Periyar and Kalakkadu Mumdanthurai areas during the week. A presentation on the serial sites in the Kerala part will be made before the visiting team at Thiruvananthapuram on October 16, Mr. Manoharan said.
Elaborate preparations have been made to brief the visiting team about the speciality of each site in the Kerala region. Experts have been designated for making the presentations and providing required information to the visiting team, Mr. Manoharan said.The Ministry has sought the nomination of the sites according to criteria seven and 10 of the Operational Guidelines for the implementation of the World Heritage Convention which deals with “areas that contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.”
Though the Western Ghats is globally known as an area of conservation interest, the evaluators would be assessing whether it is this globally outstanding site. It would be the evaluator’s task to shed light on this using all available literature and discussions, said a World Heritage Evaluations Project Management expert in an e-mail communication.
The integrity and intactness of the sites, the management aspects and the steps introduced for dealing with threats will be evaluated. The presence of a “convincing management regime” in place for the sites would also be taken into account, experts said.