Goa wants to enter World Heritage list with forest bats

Being included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List is one of the surest ways for destinations to get noticed by tourists and the media alike. 

It was only a few months back, in July 2012 that the Western Ghats (the mountainous region spreading along the Western Coast of India across Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala) was added to the World Heritage Sites list by UNESCO. However, the Goan part of the Western Ghats was not included in the UNESCO’s list.

There was a huge outcry by Goa’s powerful mining lobby when the proposal was brought up and it seems that the powerful mining lobby managed to thwart the Government’s attempts to include Goa in this prestigious World Heritage List. 

That is why it came as quite a surprise to me to read that the Goan Government would like to enter the Goa region of the Western Ghats in the World Heritage Sites list. 

Making its representation, the Goan State Forest Department has claimed that the forests of Goa are the only home on earth for rare species of wild forest bat — The Giant Indian Mastiff.

This small creature looks rather small and weak, unlike its rather pompous sounding name!

The Goan State Forest Department has claimed in a draft letter yet to be submitted to UNESCO that the Great Indian Mastiff (also known in scientific circles as the ‘Wroughton’s free-tailed bat’ has been sighted in the Mhadei Wildlife Sanctuary in the Western Ghats region and steps have already been taken to declare the area a protected region. 

As per protocol, the draft letter must receive the approval of the Chief Minister of Goa, Manohar Parrikar, before being sent to UNESCO. The letter also includes an appeal to declare Goa’s forests as a ‘tiger habitat. 

The increased presence of tigers in the Western Ghats region in recent years shows the potential of these forests to become a protected tiger habitat in the Western Ghats region. 

For Goa to be included in the World Heritage list, the natural heritage must be deemed to be of value to all humanity.

If the proposal is accepted by UNESCO, the forests of Western Ghat will find themselves in the middle of a great amount of attention, from both the media as well as tourists. Not only does a UNESCO Heritage tag ensure a greater number of tourists, it also enables the local State Government to better protect the natural habitat against development pressures. 

Goa has indeed benefited by such a UNESCO Heritage tag in the past, as its Churches and Convents of Goa are already included in the cultural and historical Heritage Sites list of UNESCO. Built during the 16th to the 18th centuries, these historial structures date from Goa’s Portuguese Colonial days and are credited with introducing the Manueline, Mannerist and Baroque styles of art to the Asian peninsula.

Most beach tourists make it a point to at least visit the UNESCO Heritage Site of the Churches and Convents of Goa, known simply as Old Goa, during their stay, usually as part of a half day Old Goa sightseeing tour by bus. 

But as tourists become more discerning, they spend more time visiting and imbibing the cultural heritage of Goa, with repeat visits to both the Churches and Convents of Old Goa as well as the Heritage Conservation Zone of Fontainhas in Panjim.

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