WWF: More than 50% of Heritage Sites are in Danger

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Updated: April 6, 2016

There is the popular adage that says, ‘progress brings problems’ and it is proven true in this instance where the report of the World Wildlife Fund is stating that nearly half of the planet’s world heritage sites are threatened by development.  The report was released today and spoke of the two hundred and twenty nine heritage sites in ninety six countries ranging from the pyramids in Egypt to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the second largest barrier reef with a portion here, in Belize.  More than half of the heritage sites around the globe, according to the WWF report, is under threat from oil and gas development, illegal logging, over-fishing or other industrial activities.  Roberto Troya is the WWF’s Director for Latin America and the Caribbean and states, quote, “Sustainable development goals are a great expression of what countries should see as a way forward.”  He added that development in countries should occur with a social, economic and environmental balance.  Troya went on to say, quote, “When you see half of these World Heritage Sites in danger ; that has to be something that rings the warning bell.”  As it relates to Belize’s Barrier Reef Reserve System, the global report says that urgent efforts are needed to protect regions such as the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, which the agency says is facing a turning point toward either conservation or irreversible development. Although more than half of the country’s people earn their primary income from reef-related tourism and protection, 40 percent of the coral system has been damaged since 1998, according to the report.  Troya said the Belizean government has broad plans to protect the barrier reef region, which comprises around 14 percent of the country’s marine environment. But separate commitments to allow oil and gas drilling in the remaining 86 percent of the country’s ocean areas could cause “widespread environmental damage,” even if such protections are in place.  An environmental catastrophe at any world heritage site could wipe out livelihoods for thousands who rely upon the tourist areas. The WWF report found at least 11 million people depend upon natural heritage sites and more than 90 percent of them provide jobs to local economies.  As a result of these findings in the report, the World Wildlife Fund is calling for the expansion of initiatives by inter-governmental groups such as UNESCO as well as a ban on development around world heritage locations and the adoption of “no-go” commitments by extraction industries.