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Half of UNESCO World Heritage Sites At Risk Due to Irresponsible Industrial Activities

Apr 08, 2016 10:31 AM EDT
Greenpeace Activists Paint Message For UNESCO
The Great Barrier Reef is one of UNESCO's world heritage sites considered in danger due to industrial activities.
(Photo : Greenpeace/Getty Images)

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization or Unesco is tasked to protect and preserve 229 Unesco heritage sites worldwide. However, according to a recent report by WWF, 114 out of 229 of these heritage sites are at risk due to irresponsible industrial activities.

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.

The heritage sites at risk include Australia's Great Barrier Reef and the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru. In the U.S., the Everglades National Park is in trouble too, according to the World Heritage List.

According to the organization that these cultural and natural heritages are both "irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration."

According to WWF's report titled "Protecting People through Nature," 50 percent of the list is at risk due to irresponsibly performed industrial activities.

"When conducted at a large-scale in or surrounding protected areas, industrial activities can cause substantial, even permanent, damage to those sites, and can affect their ability to provide long-term support for local communities," it said.

Activities such as mining and logging continue to threaten these sites.

Marco Lambertini, WWF International director general, said: "This is staggering. We're trying to raise a flag here...We're not opposing development; we're opposing badly planned development," in an interview with Reuters.

WWF said we should not take nature for granted as more than 11 million people depend on the heritage sites for food, water, shelter and medicine.

Globally, more historical sites are at risk from the destruction caused by human beings. This alarming situation urged the WWF to plead the United Nations to declare world heritage sites as "no-go areas for oil and gas exploration, mines, unsustainable timber production and overfishing," according to a report.

With the problem already recognized, what can we do to lessen the threat to these heritage sites?

WWF said they are not against development and industrial activities but they condemn illegal and irresponsible practices. Heritage sites are instruments of sustainable development.

The organization is also pushing for a responsible and sustainable economic developments and for enterprises to avoid "short-term revenue generation" that are harmful to the environment.

Risk awareness is also very important so that the people, not just the industrial developers, are made aware of the conditions, threats and consequences of irresponsible activities near heritage sites.

WWF presented a 5-point plan to further preserve the world heritage sites and now calls for the help of the United Nations to implement them. These plans include:

1. Valuation that is socially conscious

2. Investment decisions that focus on long-term value

3. Governance that is representative of all beneficiaries

4. Policy-making that is evidence-based and that is transparent

5. Regulations that is enforced and followed

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