Almost Half Of World Heritage Sites Are Threatened, Report Finds

Nearly half of the planet’s world heritage sites are threatened by development, despite international protections, according to a report released Wednesday by the World Wildlife Fund.

The 229 heritage sites in 96 countries include Egypt’s pyramids, Florida’s Everglades National Park and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The WWF report found that 114 of these sites are under threat from oil and gas development, illegal logging, overfishing or other industrial activities.

Roberto Troya, WWF director for Latin America and the Caribbean, said the report points out that natural capital isn’t valued as highly as industry in many regions, and some governments have lost sight of “what needs to happen now, versus what needs to happen in the future.”

“Sustainable development goals are a great expression of what countries should see as a way forward,” Troya said. He said development should happen under a banner of social, economic and environmental balance. “When you see half of these world heritage sites are in danger, that has to be something that rings the warning bell.”

UNESCO awards a world heritage designation to areas it says hold “outstanding value to humanity.” The label often urges extreme protection measures. Still, many of the sites face development pressure, including Machu Picchu in Peru and the Great Barrier.

The report points to urgent efforts 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 —> Read More