Protests over world heritage tag for Kodagu forests
A section of the people in Kodagu are worried over the secretive way in which the authorities are trying to include some of the wildlife sanctuaries in Kodagu in the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
The environmental groups are justified in their actions to protect and conserve forest wealth in Kodagu. However, this should not be achieved clandestinely by keeping the local population in the dark.
Local groups, led by the ruling BJP leaders, hackled a team from the International Union for Conservation of Nature who were on a visit to Madikeri to evaluate the wildlife sanctuaries in Kodagu and recommend them to the UNESCO for inclusion in the list of World Heritage Sites.
According to the UNESCO team members, Dr Wendy Strom from Switzerland and Brin Furzaf from Australia, the Central government has submitted a proposal to UNESCO, seven years ago requesting for the heritage tag for nine regions in Karnataka, including 39 hotspots of Western Ghats. “The study was started seven years ago and this is the last round of the procedure to declare the world heritage tag,” they said adding that the report will be submitted next month. They added that they would mention the protests from the locals in the report.
The team was supposed to visit the Pushpagiri and Brahmagiri wildlife sanctuaries in Kodagu. The protesters expressed their apprehension that the inclusion of the sanctuaries in the World Heritage List would displace the local people from their lands.
The protesters claimed that certain local environmental groups were behind the move to get the heritage tag for their selfish reasons.
Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife division) Swaminathan who was accompanying the UNESCO team, clarified that neither is there any role of environmentalists behind it nor will the local residents be asked to vacate the land.
He stated that the project will be taken up only after taking the local residents into confidence. “Even after the tag, the ownership of the land will remain with the Government of the respective country itself. UN cannot interfere in matters of local governing bodies.
If the local governing bodies fail to conserve the spots, then the UN will withdraw the heritage status,” Mr Swaminathan added.
It may be recalled that n 2003, many environmental groups had urged the then Chief Minister S M Krishna to submit a report to the UNESCO for declaring Pushpagiri, Talacauvery and Brahmagiri region as ‘world heritage zone’.