The sites are in Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra

A world natural heritage site tourism circuit connecting the 39 serial sites of Western Ghats, the World Heritage Sites (WHS), is in the offing.

The World Heritage Committee of Unesco had inscribed these sites, which are spread across Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra, as WHS in natural sites category in 2012.

Besides evolving a common eco-tourism circuit programme, clusters of eco-tourism sites will also be identified and promoted. Proposals for engaging local communities in the conservation and promotion of nature-based tourism too would be discussed at the session, said V.B. Mathur, director, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.

Overarching system

The evolution of an “overarching management system” for these sites would be one issue that would be deliberated at the meeting, he said.

During the inscription, the World Heritage Committee had suggested developing an overarching management system for these sites located in four States. All the selected sites are protected areas, including National Parks and Reserve Forests, he said.

A meeting of the managers of these sites and forest management experts will be held at Thekkady in August to chart out the action plan.

Kerala will host the conference as 19 of the 39 selected sites are located in the State.

The deliberations for evolving a common management plan had to be postponed twice following the debates and controversies surrounding the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel report and the High Level Working Group on Western Ghats, said V.B. Mathur.

The sites can together and in clusters promote world heritage site tourisms to suite the interests of the eco-tourism enthusiasts and the benefits from these activities would be passed on to the local communities and the sites, he said.

The serial sites of the mountain ranges were selected for their outstanding universal value and for “representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems, and communities of plants and animals.”

They were also recognised as areas containing “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.”

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