One Half of UNESCO World Heritage Sites Under Threat
A new World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report claims that one half of the world’s natural UNESCO World Heritage sites are threatened by “harmful industrial activity”, and are considered under “high threat” or “very high threat” of development.
Destructive activities such as poaching, illegal logging, mining, overfishing and oil and gas exploration are threatening 114 out of 229 natural UNESCO World Heritage sites.
UNESCO World Heritage is designated though a rigorous selection process to determine a site's "Universal Value for Mankind".
The new report shows that many UNESCO World Heritage sites, despite their value for water, tourism and environmental conservation, are suffering from massive removal of wood for charcoal and logging, oil, gas and mineral extraction, as well as palm oil plantations and construction of large-scale roads and dams.
Sub-Saharan African UNESCO sites are suffering the most, according to the report. Of the 42 sites the region holds, 30 are threatened.
Aside from their environmental value, natural UNESCO World Heritage sites provide social and economic benefits. Two-thirds of natural sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List are crucial water sources, and about half help prevent natural disasters such as floods or landslides, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
(c) Paul Hilton - The Destruction of Leuser, Sumatran World Heritage
Over 90 percent of listed natural sites provide income through tourism and recreation. But benefits decrease when the landscape is altered or resources are over-exploited.
More than 11 million people depend on UNESCO World Heritage sites for water, food, and medicine, the report urged governments to hold industries "to the highest standards of corporate accountability and stewardship," and create clear buffer zones around the sites. It also called on industries and financiers to make public commitments to refrain from encroaching on UNESCO World Heritage sites, and adhere to sustainable practices.
This danger is even more apparent considering that there are around eleven million people living within these sites, and with the threat to their environment comes with the threat on their population, as the sites are said to interlink with their livelihood as well as their means of survival, as it provides them with food, water and medicine. The report also stated that 90 percent of these sites provide jobs that extend beyond their boundaries.
Marco Lambertini, the director of WWF International, noted that governments and businesses are in desperate need for a reality check and should realize that the long-term value of these sites are more important that the short-term revenue that the industrial activities provide.
The Guardian also noted that critics suggested the UN has not done enough to ensure that these sites are protected as well as they should. While the Unesco World Heritage label is a coveted accolade, it is the governments in charge of these sites that are mostly responsible for their protection. To address the problem, the UN is now considering providing armed forces for those sites that are in danger, particularly, from war.
According to a report commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), half of the UNESCO World Heritage sites around the world are in danger due to human activities, predominately industrial development over exploitation of resources that include mining and logging. The WWF asks companies to leave such sites untouched for their safety and sustenance.
According to the report, there are 114 sites, which are designated protected areas, at risk. These include the Everglades, the Grand Canyon and the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the United States and there are many others in other part of the world with similar status.
Besides, there are other 18 natural sites that are also designated as in danger by the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO. These are the Great Barrier Reef, which is in danger from activities like mining and shipping. Machu Picchu in the Andes was not on the U.N. list, but now it is also reported as at risk from logging.
There are more sites which weren’t at risk earlier but now are considered so. Among them are Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands and Russia’s Kamchatka volcanoes. These sites are mainly in threat of oil, gas, mining and other harmful industrial activity.
Not only in India, Indonesia, Cambodia and developing countries is this occurring. The Everglades and the Grand Canyon in the United States are noted at risk due to irresponsible industrial activities.
Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, says, “ UNSECO World Heritage sites should receive the highest levels of protection, yet we are often unable to safeguard even this important fraction of the Earth’s surface. 114 out of 229 of these heritage sites are at risk due to irresponsible industrial activities."
Above excerpts from Science World Report April 2016: “Unesco World Heritage Sites Under Severe Threat Says WWF”
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