Australia's Barrier Reef set for heritage downgrade: UNESCO

A leopard shark swims past Sydney Aquarium divers urging UNESCO to save the Great Barrier Reef on March 5, 2012
A leopard shark (below), swims past as Sydney Aquarium divers unveil a Greenpeace banner urging UNESCO to save the Great Barrier Reef at the Sydney Aquarium on March 5, 2012. Australia insisted it was committed to protecting the Great Barrier Reef on Saturday after the UN warned that the natural wonder's world heritage status could be in downgraded in 2014.

Australia insisted it was committed to protecting the Great Barrier Reef on Saturday after the UN warned that the natural wonder's world heritage status could be in downgraded in 2014.

UNESCO said little had been done to address concerns about rampant coastal development and raised a year ago with the Australian government in a warning that its heritage status was at risk.

"The state party has made progress on some key issues and actions but progress on several recommendations, including those related to water quality and measures to prevent coastal development ... remains limited," UNESCO said ahead of its annual congress next month in Phnom Penh.

"Urgent and decisive action is needed to address these issues."

Without a "firm and demonstrable commitment on these priority issues" UNESCO said the reef should be considered for inscription on the list of in danger in 2014.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said her government had taken steps to increase protection of the reef, including Aus$200 million (US$206 million) towards the Reef Rescue water quality project.

An undated handout photo released on March 1, 2012, by the Catlin Seaview Survey shows a view of the Great Barrier Reef
An undated handout photo released on March 1, 2012, by the Catlin Seaview Survey shows a view of the iconic Great Barrier Reef. Australia insisted it was committed to protecting the Great Barrier Reef on Saturday after the UN warned that the natural wonder's world heritage status could be in downgraded in 2014.

"We are very committed to keeping the as the wonderful heritage area for the world that it is and for our nation," Gillard told repoters.

But environmental group WWF said UNESCO had "put Australia in the sin bin".

"The expert bodies are so concerned that they are recommending an immediate halt to approvals of projects that could individually or cumulatively impact on the reef's values until (Australia's state and national) governments have properly responded to their recommendations," said WWF's Richard Leck.

Australia's environmentally-driven Greens party said the latest UNESCO report was a "slap on the wrist" for the government, with most sites on the heritage in danger list in developing nations or .

"This is the world heritage body warning us that we need to (do) better or our reef, our most precious tourism icon, will be put on the world heritage endangered list, along with other countries like Yemen, the Congo and Afghanistan," said Greens Senator Larissa Waters.

Australia is riding an unprecedented wave of resources investment due to booming demand from Asia, with hundreds of billions of dollars worth of resource projects in the pipeline.

Last June UNESCO said the sheer number and scale of proposals, including liquefied natural gas, tourism and mining projects, could threaten the reef's status.


Explore further

Australia failing UNESCO demands on Barrier Reef

© 2013 AFP

Citation: Australia's Barrier Reef set for heritage downgrade: UNESCO (2013, May 5) retrieved 1 December 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2013-05-australia-barrier-reef-heritage-downgrade.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors