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Garo hills eyes World Heritage tag

Proposal to include conservation area in Unesco's Mixed Site list

  • Published 16.02.17
A view of Chokpot from Matcha Nokpante at Nokrek National Park. Telegraph picture

Guwahati, Feb. 15: The Meghalaya government has taken the first step to get Garo Hills Conservation Area (GHCA) recognised as a World Heritage Site.

This is the first ever place in Meghalaya to be moved for a special tag and is being listed under the Mixed Site category.

Mixed Site comprises elements of both natural and cultural significance. There are at present two World Heritage Sites in the Northeast - Kaziranga and Manas.

The 337.48 sq km GHCA comprises three legally designated protected areas - Nokrek National Park (49.44 square km), Balpakram National Park (220 square km) and Siju Wildlife Sanctuary (5.18 square km) - and the reserve# forests of Tura Peak (4.19 square km), Imangiri (8.29 square km), Rewak (6.47 square km) and Baghmara (43.9 square km).

The conservation area straddles South Garo Hills and West Garo Hills districts. The proposal moved this month from the Meghalaya government for inclusion in the "tentative list" says it is a fit case for inscription for its "outstanding universal value".

The core area, which is 335.5 square km, receives protection through the network of protected areas and the connected reserve forests unlike that of the Western Ghats which is not protected by a contiguous protected area network and has many private properties in between, resulting in broken connectivity. Official sources said the proposal is now with the ministry of environment, forests and climate change who will have to send it to Unesco.

The 41st meeting of World Heritage Committee will be held in Krakow, Poland, in July. The Unesco Category 2 Centre for World Natural Heritage Site Management at the Wildlife Institute of India is helping the Meghalaya government. The proposal says the nominated property may also be compared with India's only mixed heritage site, Khangchendzonga National Park in Sikkim in terms of both natural values and its cultural and spiritual significance for the local communities.

"The nominated site is also protected under government designation as 'protected areas'. This makes the property an ideal candidate for long-term conservation and protection through the joint effort of the government authorities and the local community," the proposal says.

On the criteria of most important and significant natural habitats for conservation of biological diversity, the GHCA has different forest types, hill streams, rivers and caves which provide diversity of habitat for an enormous variety of species of invertebrates, 298 species of butterflies, 448 species of moths, 26 species of amphibians, 45 species of reptiles and 347 species of birds. The site has the germplasm of Citrus indica, commonly known as memang narang, an endangered species believed to be the most "primitive" citrus, and is conserved at the National Citrus Gene Sanctuary in Nokrek biosphere reserve.