Of 39 serial sites that won the tag, Kerala accounts for 19

The World Heritage Site tag is unlikely to affect life and land-use patterns in the Kerala part of the Western Ghats. Life is expected to go on unhindered in the sites and adjoining areas despite the tag. There will not be any fresh restrictions on activities that are currently permitted in the forest areas of Kerala, say authorities.

Of the 39 serial sites that won global recognition for their Outstanding Universal Value, Kerala accounts for the most number of sites at 19, followed by 10 in Karnataka, six in Tamil Nadu, and four in Maharashtra.

V. Gopinath, Chief Wildlife Warden, Kerala, is of the view that the tag may not have any major impact on life in Kerala as 10 sites are already notified as protected areas including national parks and tiger reserve. The remaining nine are either reserve forests or interior forest areas. All the protected areas and reserve forests are governed by the Wildlife Protection Act and the Forest Conservation Act. The activities in these areas are regulated by these laws. Hence, there need not be any apprehensions regarding new restrictions, Mr. Gopinath said.

All the activities which are currently permitted will go on uninterrupted in the sites and there will not be any changes in the land-use patterns. The plantations in these sites will continue to remain as such and the tag will not introduce any change in its land-use status. Eco-tourism activities, which are currently under way, will also go on, he said.

The World Heritage Site tag has a symbolic value in terms of conservation activities and the inscription may bring global recognition and some funds from agencies such as Unesco and the World Heritage Fund. Moreover, the tag will help these sites get an extra mileage when some projects for external funding are prepared, he said.

The 39 sites

The inscribed sites from the Kerala part of the Ghats include two national parks (Silent Valley and Eravikulam), five wildlife sanctuaries (Shendurney, Neyyar, Peppara, Chinnar, and Aralam), Periyar Tiger Reserve, four forest ranges (Kulathupuzha, Palode, Mankulam, and Kalikavu), three forest divisions (Ranni, Konni, and Achencoil), two reserve forests (New Amarambalam and Attappady), and two shola forests (Karian shola and Mannavan shola).

Karnataka sites

The 10 Karnataka sites are: Kudremukh National Park, four wildlife sanctuaries (Someshwara, Pushpagiri, Brahmagiri, and Talacauvery), and five reserve forests (Padinalknad, Kerti, Someshwara, Agumbe, and Balahalli).

Tamil Nadu has six sites: three national parks (Grass Hills, Karian Shola, and Mukurti), Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Srivilliputtur Wildlife Sanctuary, and Tirunelveli (North) forest division.

Maharashtra accounts for Kas Plateau, Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary, Chandoli National Park, and Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary.

The World Heritage Committee observed that the “site’s high montane forest ecosystems influence the Indian monsoon weather pattern. Moderating the tropical climate of the region, it presents one of the best examples of the monsoon system in the planet.”

It was pointed out that the sites had an “exceptionally high level of biological diversity and endemism. It is recognised as one of the world’s eight hottest hotspots of biological diversity. The forests of the site include some of the best representatives of non-equatorial tropical evergreen forests anywhere and are home to at least 325 globally threatened flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile, and fish species,”the committee said.