WWF Claims That Half The World Heritage Sites Are Threatened

A new report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) claims that 114 of the 229 World Heritage Sites protected by The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) are threatened by industrial activities.

WWF shows mankind’s dealings threaten even protected sites

Nearly half of the World Heritage Sites are threatened according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Overfishing, illegal logging, mining and oil exploration are the biggest industrial culprits according to the report released on Wednesday.

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The U.S Grand Canyon, The Woolong Panda Sanctuary in Szechaun province (China), Machu Pichu, The Great Pyramids of Egypt, Florida’s Everglades National Park, and my own adopted hometown of Antigua, Guatemala are just a handful of the sites worldwide that have been deemed World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.

While I’m comfortable saying that Antigua, Guatemala is not among those that are threatened by industry; the influx of roughly 15,000 tourists passing through in Antigua is a bit much at times.

In order to receive the distinction as a World Heritage Site, the area must present something culturally or naturally significant or a mix of the two.

While there is little question that the world is in a bad place and won’t be getting better before it gets worse if it gets better at all. What’s surprising about this report, is that these are meant to be protected areas.

“Even this small fraction of our planet is not receiving the protection it deserves,” said David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK. “These areas contribute to our economies through tourism and natural resources, providing livelihoods for millions of people, while also supporting some of the planet’s most valuable ecosystems.”

The United Nations provides money to the country that houses the heritage sites for their protection. Unfortunately, all to often (personal experience) these funds are handed down to corrupt nations like Guatemala and the suggestion that the United Nation’s money makes it to the desired destination is the acme of folly.

“Despite the obvious benefits of these natural areas, we still haven’t managed to decouple economic development from environmental degradation,” WWF director general Marco Lambertini said. “Instead, too often, we grant concessions for exploration of oil, gas or minerals, and plan large-scale industrial projects without considering social and environmental risks.”

What’s to be done to reverse this disturbing trend?

It is a trend that needs to be reversed. The world is a magical place and surely there is room for more sites to make the list and receive funds to protect them. In fact, I’m guessing that if you were to look at the full list you would be able to comfortably add to the list based on your own travels. But in the meantime, why not protect the protected sites?

It’s estimated that well over ten million people rely on the protection of these sites that account for billions of tourist dollars. While tourists can certainly be annoying with certain countries, that will not be listed here, being worse than others. That said, the tourists that go out of their way to visit World Heritage Sites are generally quite respectful when it comes to the treatment of the world’s gems.

It really is industry that is causing the problem.

Specifically, the report counts 40 sites where oil and gas concessions have been granted and another 42 that allow mining in and around the site. Nearly 30 more sites are threatened by dam construction and unsustainable water use and another 28 where illegal logging is threatening the sites. Two are in danger owing to overfishing and 20 are at risk from railroad/road construction.

And with heavy-heart, the report points out that many of these sites face multiple threats.