The Western Ghats has made it to the coveted list of World Heritage Sites. The World Heritage Committee, meeting at St. Petersburg in Russia, decided to inscribe 39 serial sites of the Western Ghats on the World Heritage List on Sunday night.
“The Western Ghats was inscribed under criteria 9 and 10 of the Operational Guidelines of the World Heritage Convention,” Vinod B. Mathur, Dean of the Wildlife Institute of India, told The Hindu from Russia.
Criterion nine of the guidelines deals with properties which are “outstanding examples representing significant ongoing ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals.” Criterion 10 is relevant for “those properties which 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.”
“The discussion on the Ghats witnessed representatives from 17 nations — Algeria, Cambodia, Columbia, Estonia,, Ethiopia, Iraq, Japan, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Qatar, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, the UAE and Thailand —coming out strongly in favour of India. The Indian delegation aptly responded to a range of questions, clarification and amplifications sought by the members of the World Heritage Committee,” Dr. Mathur said in a communication.
“The positive decision on the Western Ghats is a reflection of India’s concerted efforts to inscribe the world’s hottest hotspot on the World Heritage List, thus plugging an important and long-standing gap on the list,” he said.
The nomination processes thus successfully ended a six-year-long campaign of the country for getting the sites inscribed on the list. India had been campaigning for the inscription since 2006. Recounting the process of campaign, Dr. Mathur said that India had submitted a dossier for nomination of 39 sites in the Western Ghats spread over Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Paris in 2010.
Under the Operational Guidelines of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, India’s nomination dossier was peer-reviewed by IUCN experts and subsequently an IUCN Technical Evaluation Mission that visited India for field evaluation. Based on the inputs received through desk reviews and field evaluation, the IUCN recommended to the World Heritage Committee to ‘defer’ the consideration of the Western Ghats dossier at the Paris session held last year, he pointed out in a communication.
The Indian delegation met the members of the 21-nation World Heritage Committee to highlight the merits of India’s proposal for inscription of the Western Ghats on the list.
The Russian delegation moved a proposal to recommend amendments to the ‘inscription’ against the IUCN recommendation of ‘deferral,’ he said.
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests delegation to the 36th session comprised Jagdish Kishwan, Additional Director General (Wildlife), Dr. Mathur, and S.K. Khanduri, Inspector-General of Forests (Wildlife).