Himachal Pradesh (HP) government said it had paid Rs 1.8 crore to the local people who claimed to have rights over the Great Himalayan National Park (GHNP), which is vying for the coveted World Heritage Site status.
Earlier, Himalayan Niti Abhiyan, an NGO, had written a letter to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) demanding rights of the local people to be addressed first before granting world heritage status to the GHNP, located in Kullu district of the state.
“All the rights of villages living close to the GHNP have been settled and compensation paid following the process mentioned in the Wildlife Protection Act 1972,” Sanjeeva Pandey, additional principal chief conservator of forest, Himachal Pradesh, said.
In 1999, the process of settlement of rights of local people (which were mostly of herb collection and grazing their sheep and goats) in the park was completed and a sum of Rs 1,79,76,433 was awarded to those who had rights on the area.
The GHNP is one of the richest biodiversity sites in Western Himalayas. Experts from International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) had recently visited the Park for its possible inclusion in 2013’s World Heritage List.
Under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of India, 1972, the govt is required to issue an initial notification for the area to be constituted as a national park. This initial notification for GHNP was issued in 1984. According to the provisions of this Act, the final notification for the creation of the park can be issued only after the state government settled the existing claims of livelihoods, (rights) in the proposed national park area.
The Kaziranga National Park and the Manas Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam, the Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers national parks in Uttarakhand and the Sundarbans in West Bengal are other areas in India that are already on UNESCO’s world heritage list.