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World Heritage Site status still out of reach for the Western Ghats

The coveted World Heritage Site tag may remain elusive for the Western Ghats as the IUCN technical evaluation report says the “property does not meet conditions of integrity or protection and management requirements for serial properties.”

The 36{+t}{+h}session of the WHC, which will begin at St. Petersburg, Russia, on June 24, will consider the report.

India had nominated 39 serial sites of the Ghats including Agasthyamalai, Kalakad-Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, Padinalknad reserved forest, Kerti reserved forest, Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary, Kudremukh National Park, Someshwara Wildlife Sanctuary, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Mannavan Shola, and Silent Valley National Park for declaration as World Heritage Site.

Picking holes in India's claim, the IUCN stated that “the protection status of at least parts of the re-nominated property does not meet the requirements, principally owing to concerns about land tenure and the strength of legal controls over development.” The boundaries of the nominated property “did not meet the requirements set out in the Operational Guidelines primarily due to ongoing concerns regarding site selection, inclusion of inappropriate land uses and buffer zone effectiveness,” it said.

While staking its claim, India had stated that there would be a three-tier management system for all the 39 sites. However, IUCN observed that there was “no overarching management plan for the nominated property” despite the three-tier coordination mechanism proposed by India. Though the management plans for the nominated sites are in place, “they are complex and it is not clear how they contribute to an overall management strategy for the proposed World Heritage Site as a whole,” it pointed out.

IUCN also noted that while there “is clear potential for a World Heritage Site to be successfully nominated in the Western Ghats Region, the present nomination does not conform to the requirements established in the Operational Guidelines of the WHC.”

It was also noted that the “IUCN considers that although the component parts have been chosen on a scientific basis in order to conserve the most irreplaceable species and habitats of the Western Ghats, the nomination still does not adequately encompass the full values of the Western Ghats.”

As each State to which the serial sites belongs to would focuses on its own biodiversity and conservation activities the panel observed, “that the overall continuity in interpreting the full values of the Western Ghats as a whole remains very weak.”

The decision to defer the nomination would “present a clear opportunity to practically implement an upstream process to provide better support” to the country “in a collaborative and constructive manner,” it said.

KOCHI, May 30, 2012

Kerala's plant biodiversity faces a severe threat from 89 alien invasive species, which were recorded in a survey commissioned by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board.

Of these, 19 pose a high risk; many were found displacing and destroying a large number of native species, causing environmental and economic loss.

Around 40 per cent of the varieties belonging to Brazil, Trinidad, Costa Rica, Chile and Mexico were believed to have reached the State mostly through timber and food grain imports, said K.V. Sankaran, director of the Kerala Forest Research Institute, Peechi, Thrissur, which conducted the survey and risk assessment.

The list comprises 11 trees, 39 herbs, 24 shrubs, and 15 climbers. The high risk species include Acacia mearnsii (Black wattle), Antigonon leptopus (Mountain rose), Arundo donax (Giant reed), Chromolaena odorata (Siam weed), Ipomoea cairica (Kolambipoo), Mikania micrantha (American vally, Kaipu vally, Dhritharashtra pacha), Mimosa diplotricha var. diplotricha (Anathottavadi), Prosopis juliflora (Sali) and Sphagneticola trilobata (Singapore daisy).

While some species were brought for agriculture and forestry, some others inadvertently reached the State. Over the years, they have established and spread, displacing the natural vegetation, including medicinal plants, and reduced the availability of fodder, researchers say.

Observation points

As part of the survey, around 4,000 observation points were set up for generation of data, and each point was selected on the basis of the presence of plants with visually aggressive growth. The species thus listed were checked against the catalogue of the native flora. The invasive plants were then subjected to the Invasive Species Risk Assessment, as per the Invasive Species Assessment Protocol developed by NatureServe, Virginia, U.S., said T.V. Sajeev, who led the field studies.

The research team also included T.A. Suresh, R.R. Ragesh and K.K. Subin.

The listed plants were at various stages of invasion and colonisation and different strategies were required for the management of each. Sesbania bispinosa and Senna siamea have started spreading and they were observed only in a few localities. However, Hypoestes sanguinolenta and Heliconia psittacorum have started reproducing. Mimosa diplotricha var. diploticha and Spahgneticola trilobata have established satellite populations. Chromolaena odorata and Lantana camera have started naturalisation, Dr. Sajeev said.

Pollinating insects preferred these species as they produced more pollen grains and nectar than the native ones. The resultant fall in the pollination rate of the native plants would affect the local biodiversity and its regeneration. Dr. Sajeev pointed to earlier reports of pollen grains of Acacia and Parthennium having caused allergy among humans.

Dr. Sankaran reckons that the quarantine measures at sea and airports should be made stringent to control the arrival of invasive varieties. Imported timber should be treated with pesticides as the wood would carry seeds and eggs of plants and insects. A large number of countries resort to such measures for protecting their biodiversity.

Source:The Hindhu June 5, 2012