New Delhi: Kerala has welcomed UNESCO's decision to give Western Ghats a World Heritage status. The state leads with 20 sites being inscribed in the Heritage list.
"We welcome the decision. It is our duty to protect the remaining biosphere reserves in the Western Ghats," Kerala Forest Minister K B Ganesh Kumar told PTI.
He, however, pointed out that protecting the ecologically sensitive area would be a "herculean task and huge funding is needed for the Government as there is tremendous developmental as well as population pressure on the mountains".
States are divided in their reaction to the World Heritage status to a cluster of 39 biodiversity hotspots in the Western Ghats with some welcoming it and a few others opposing the decision by the UNESCO.
Many conservationists have welcomed it saying the "Government of India is accountable to protect" India's 1600-km Western Ghats mountain, older than the Himalayas.
In contrast, Karnataka has said that the state was against the UNESCO declaration as it would affect development work.
According to Minister for Forest CP Yogeshwar, development efforts in the area will be hit if these places were declared as World Heritage spots and people living there would face hardship.
The Centre has apparently rejected Karnataka's stand.
Sources said Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan is of the view that the states are bound to accept the decision taken by a 21-nation panel of the World Heritage Committee as it was pushed by the Centre.