Shimla/Shakti, July 21 ( The Tribune)
The Unesco’s World Heritage Committee (WHC) has agreed not to take three villages, including Shakti, Maror and Shugaar, out from the 905-sq-km Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP) area.
Not only this, it has also agreed to make villagers as stakeholders in the management of the park, which availed the prestigious inscription of the Unesco’s world heritage site recently.
State’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests RK Gupta and Chief Wildlife Warden Dr Lalit Mohan, who had led the team to Doha, said: “No village will be taken out from the GHNP as the WHC has agreed to the demand pleaded before it by the Indian team at Doha meeting held from June 15 to 25.”
Those living in and round the park area and in its eco-zone would continue to enjoy their traditional forest rights, including visits to pilgrimage centres located inside the park, Gupta assured.
“The WHC has agreed that locals have been facilitating conservation down centuries protecting GHNP’s natural wealth,” he said.
But over 2,408 families around the GHNP still take this assurance with a pinch of salt.
Ranjiv Bharti, president, Friends of Tirthan, an NGO, said: “The state government has settled the rights of 311 families on the basis of Anderson Report of 1864 and GHNP has no blueprint to promote ecotourism making them real stakeholders in its management not just as porters for foreign NGOs and the funding agencies.”
The villagers had raised their grouse because the GHNP had included the 61 sq km Tirthan wildlife sanctuary and the 90-sq-km Sainj wildlife sanctuary in the park for inscription without settling their traditional rights.
Naval Thakur, an 88-year-old freedom fighter, said: “They still fear that the GHNP inscription will curtail their rights in the park, as it will be protected under the Wildlife Protection Act.”
Naval Thakur cited the RTI information obtained from GHNP authorities in June, saying: “The GHNP has weeded out records from 1989 to 1994-95 on budgets and park authorities have failed to give meaningful employment to villagers over the years. Just 39 villagers have been employed as casual labourers in the park so far.”
He said no records of protection of forest rights were available with the park authorities.
GHNP PIO had told him that the park was notified in 1999 and the award was declared by the settlement officer in May 1999, which he said was a peanut and clearly shows how villagers’ rights were treated.
“We demanded settlement for our rights as most of the 2,408 families are still poor. The funds meant for development are cornered by fake NGOs operating from outside,” rued Jaisi Ram, Gur of the Bhramrishi devta of Shakti and Maror.
On this Gupta said there would be no disturbance of anybody and the district collector, Kullu, would conduct a public hearing and announce the award in this regard.