Why should I think about UNESCO's world heritage, asks CM

GOANEWS DESK, PANAJI | 03 July 2012 23:34 IST

Mining in Goa's Western Ghat

Chief minister Manohar Parrikar and his predecessor Digambar Kamat appear to have been agreeing upon one issue – not bothering to save Western Ghats.

UNESCO has identified 39 sites and around 8000 square metres of area all along the Western Ghat, which is 1500 kms long, as the World Heritage belt.

It stretches from Tapi valley in the north along the Arabian Sea, touching six states - Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu - with 44 districts and 142 talukas.

However, Goa is not at all included in the sites selected by UNESCO as the World Heritage belt.

Chief minister Parrikar however seemed to be not bothered about it at all.

“I have no relation with world heritage. It does not come under our scope. It’s a subject matter of United Nations”, he said, asking why should he think about what UNESCO has done.

Environmentalists however feel otherwise.

According to Rajendra Kerkar, who has been fighting tirelessly to protect the biodiversity of the Western Ghat, says Goa has missed the opportunity by deliberating staying away from the whole process.

He recalls a meeting held in Bengaluru on 15 September last year, convened by union ministry of environment and forests, where Goa government did not participate.

“It is clear that former Congress government led by Digambar Kamat deliberately neglected this aspect to protect vested interests of the mining lobby”, alleges Kerkar.

Incidentally, BJP chief minister Parrikar has also adopted a similar approach, claiming that the whole issue of world heritage does not come under the ambit of Goa government.

This is in contrast of the central government and the ministry of environment and forests, which has welcomed the UNESCO decision.

Around 700 sq kms of area all along the 65 kms of Western Ghat encompasses Goa state, including three sanctuaries. Most of the mining leases are located in and around these wild life sanctuaries or the rest of the forest.

As per the reports, 31 mining leases, including seven working leases, are located within two kms of sanctuaries. Almost 13 leases are hardly one km away from the sanctuaries, as per the reports prepared by some agencies in this regard.

Goa has apparently lost around 2500 hectares of forest due to mining within a decade since 1988, state these reports.

In spite of this, all the governments have been sitting over the reports submitted by different agencies recommending immediate steps to protect the biodiversity of the Western Ghat within Goa.

The whole Western Ghat, including Goa, is considered to be home to 1,500 endemic species of flowers and plants and around 500 species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

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