Says it will not cause more ‘issues’ than WGEEP report

The UNESCO tag of World Heritage Site for 19 sites in the State will not cause more “issues” than the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP) report, says the Environment Department.

The funds that the world heritage tag may bring in can be used to offset some of the economic impact of the WGEEP recommendations on farmers.

The views have found place in a draft report on WGEEP recommendations prepared by the department for the government. The State’s views will be made known to the High-level Working Group headed by K. Kasturirangan, formed to examine the report.

According to the draft note, the “WGEEP recommendations encompass the contiguous human habitations and even the non-Western Ghats midland areas of the State.” However, the “heritage status does not bring in more issues than that has been occasioned by the WGEEP report.”

Of the 39 serial sites of the Western Ghats which had been declared world heritage sites of universal value, 19 are in Kerala.

The sites in the State include the Silent Valley and Eravikulam national parks, wildlife sanctuaries of Shendurney, Neyyar, Peppara, Chinnar and Aralam, and the Periyar Tiger Reserve. It also included four forest ranges, three forest divisions and two reserve forests and two shola forests.

The declaration had met with stiff resistance from some of the ghats States, including Karnataka. There was apprehension in the State that the declaration would bring in new sets of regulations at the sites.

Comparing the impact of nomination with panel recommendations, the Environment Department pointed out that the world heritage site tag “might not affect development activities in the non-forested areas as in the case of the WGEEP recommendations.”

It may also turn beneficial to the State as it “will lead to protection of the sites and prevent encroachments. The status may not have appreciable adverse impact on human activities, so far as the boundaries are confined as considered for the nomination. There will not be any fresh restriction on activities that are currently permitted in the forest areas of Kerala,” it noted.

The department hoped that the status would help in sourcing international funds for a “mechanism for payment for ecosystem services to the farmers or landowners who are compelled to subject themselves to the stringent development restrictions under the WGEEP recommendations.”

Some funds may also be available from the agencies such as the United Nations for reviving traditional farm practices and funding, it hoped.

The heritage status may also turn out to be beneficial to the State in mobilising “international technical and financial resources for conservation and promote visitation and revenue generation for local, regional and national economies,” it suggested.