By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS,
Guwahati : Three Indian nominees, including the famed Kaziranga National Park, could face elimination on technical grounds from the list of more than 260 destinations around the world vying for the distinction of becoming one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
Among the 261 nominees from across the world competing for one of the coveted New 7 Wonders of Nature are the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, the Ganga river, and the Sundarbans delta, the largest mangrove forest in the world.
“This nominee (Kaziranga National Park) is not yet officially supported. Without an official supporting committee (OSC), a nominee cannot participate in the next stages of the New 7 Wonders of Nature campaign,” said a posting on the official website of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
The same is the case with the Sunderbans, while the applicant for the formation of an OSC for the Ganga does not fulfil all the New 7 Wonders of Nature requirements.
According to norms set up by the New 7 Wonders of Nature for the second phase of voting, the nominees should have an OSC that is authorized by a legitimate national, regional, or local government, with responsibility for the nominee location. In cases of most of the nominees of other countries, the local government or organisations recommended by the government acted as their OSC.
“It is a shame that even after Kaziranga was listed among the 261 nominees for the 7 Wonders of Nature, our state government or wildlife conservation groups failed to take any initiative to fulfil the technical formalities,” Shankar Prasad Rai, president of the influential All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), told IANS.
Assam wildlife authorities were simply unaware about the procedures and feigned ignorance about the rules.
“If such a formality was required we would do it,” a senior Assam wildlife official said in response to a query by IANS.
The Assam government has put out newspaper advertisements seeking people’s support to vote online to help Kaziranga get into the top seven wonders of nature, although they were not aware of the technical requirements for the nominee to be in the race.
And if the formalities are not completed, then Kaziranga, along with the Ganga and the Sunderbans, would be eliminated on technical grounds July 7 when voting closes for the second phase. The next short list, comprising 77 contenders, will face an expert panel July 7, who will cut the list down to 21 by July 29.
“The Assam government should depute some officials to complete the formalities immediately and then think of the next stage on how best to create awareness for people to vote online,” Bibhav Kumar Talukdar, secretary general of Aaranayak, a noted wildlife conservation group working in Kaziranga, said.
The international public will vote to determine the top seven wonders from the list of 21 finalists, which will be announced in the middle of 2011.
“We shall do everything possible to create awareness and we hope people of Assam and the world would vote for Kaziranga,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.
The campaign, led by Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber, aims to promote cultural diversity by supporting, preserving, and restoring monuments and natural sites.
“And if Kaziranga gets eliminated, the onus would squarely fall on the Assam government and the wildlife NGOs for failing to take any initiative,” the AASU president said.