WWF, Unesco seek to protect heritage sites
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According to independent conservation group WWF, industrial activities such as mining, oil exploration and illegal logging are threatening almost half of all natural World Heritage Sites, including the Great Barrier Reef and Machu Picchu. Details come in a new report on the issue, sparking the Unesco World Heritage Centre to back a call for collective action to protect vulnerable sites.
In its latest report, Protecting People Through Nature, WWF says, "protecting natural areas and ecosystems is not antidevelopment". According to the 76-page report, the erosion of natural areas and ecosystems, which it says are caused by harmful industrial activities, puts at risk global economic proserity, social stability and the well-being of up to 11 million people over the long term.
The report focuses largely on 229 natural and mixed World Heritage sites. World Heritage sites are internationally recognized under the United Nations Educational, Scentific, and Cultural Organisation World Heritage Convention as possessing what it classifies as "outstanding universal value". For a site to be included on the World Heritage List, it must meet at least one of ten selection criteria, six of which apply to cultural sites and four of which apply to natural sites.
The report says the sites include examples of some of the world’s greatest natural beauty, geology, ecology and biodiversity. It cites such places as the Galápagos Islands, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Grand Canyon, the Western Ghats in India and the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries in China, among others.
In a press release published on the Unesco website on Wednesday, Mechtild Rössler, Director of the Unesco World Heritage Centre, said the centre joins "WWF's calls upon governments and the private sector to respect the decisions of the World Heritage Committee and its repeated assertion that extractive activities are incompatible with World Heritage status".
In its report, the WWF called on the World Heritage Committee itself to take a number of actions, including to define a formal policy against harmful industrial activities and to grant concerned organizations more access to its annual meetings.