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Half of the World Heritage Sites in Danger
Apr 20, 2016

According to a latest 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.

  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is tasked to protect and preserve 229 UNESCO heritage sites worldwide

  • UNESCO considers the world's heritage sites as a legacy from the past generations so they aim to preserve these areas to the best of their abilities.

  • Industrial development practices like unsustainable logging and over-exploitation of resources could threaten nearly half of the UNESCO World Heritage sites across the globe.

A new report commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on the status of United Nations World Heritage sites has found that many of these declared sanctuaries are under threat because of various human activities, not least of which involves the development of industries such as mining, construction and oil and gas exploration.

Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, calls last year’s action as inefficient in comparison to the danger as most of the sites are still under threat from being damaged. “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.”

  • The WWF asks companies to comply with UN regulations and suggests that they should not make use of heritage sites designated as ‘no go’ areas for practices like oil and gas exploration, mines, unsustainable timber production and over fishing.

More than eleven million people depend on World Heritage sites for food, water, shelter and medicine, and could be negatively affected by the impacts of harmful industrial activities conducted at large-scale. World Heritage sites could play a key role for these people and communities worldwide in achieving the global sustainable development goals agreed last year by UN member states. 90 per cent of natural World Heritage sites provide jobs and benefits that extend far beyond their boundaries.

World Heritage sites cover approximately 0.5 per cent of the Earth’s surface. These sites support some of the planet’s most valuable ecosystems and contribute to economies through tourism, recreation and the export of resources while also providing homes to threatened species and helping counter global climate change.

The WWF report establishes five global principles that are fundamental to well-managed World Heritage sites. These principles—valuation, investment decisions, governance, policymaking and enforcement—can help decision makers achieve an appropriate and equitable balance between conservation, sustainability and development and reduce the threats to our shared World Heritage.

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