Almost half of natural World Heritage sites under severe threat, says WWF –

As the Global Heritage Fund commented, “A new report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) states that more than 11 million people – more than the population of Portugal – and over half of our natural World Heritage Sites are in danger, with mining and logging at the top of the threat factors. Millions of people rely on these natural resource for sustenance, survival, shelter and medicine; 90% of natural World Heritage sites provide jobs and benefits that extend far beyond their boundaries. The report emphasizes the inherent link between heritage sites and their contribution to both economic and social development, as well as global failures to protect them. “The challenges to World Heritage conservation, combined with the effects of climate change, are unprecedented in human history,” according to an official UNESCO statement.”

We need not only to protect these kinds of places for their own sake, but also to recognize the deep interrelationship between humanity and the rest of environment, making industrialization more sustainable and our heritage sites more adaptable.

via Almost half of natural World Heritage sites under severe threat, says WWF –, written by Story Hinkley

“Natural World Heritage sites, from the Grand Canyon and Great Barrier Reef to the Swiss Alps, provide local communities with natural resources and jobs.”

Peter Ford/ The Christian Science Monitor: A meadow outside Binzhongluo on the Nu River in Southern China.  The area, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is said to be perhaps the most biologically diverse temperate region on earth.

Are economic growth and environmental conservation mutually exclusive?

Not at all, says a new report on United Nations World Heritage sites commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). On the contrary, healthy environments often boost local economies, meaning that industrial expansion in natural heritage sites is a threat to those who live there, too.

World Heritage sites numbering 229 have been designated in 96 countries because UNESCO believes their “outstanding universal value” should belong to all people in the world, from Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to Machu Picchu in Peru. But WWF’s report, released Tuesday, estimates that almost half of these sites are threatened by industrial activities such as construction, mining, oil and gas exploration, illegal logging, or overfishing.

Eleven million people live within these 229 sites, interlinking the livelihoods as well as food and water sources with the area’s preservation. More than 90 percent of natural World Heritage sites provide jobs and two-thirds of the sites are important sources of fresh water.

“The well-being of communities is being put at risk by harmful industrial activities that degrade the environment, and that compromise the ability of these places to provide economic and non-economic benefits that are so fundamental to local populations as well as to our global community,” Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International, writes in the report, calling for governments and businesses to “fulfill their commitments” to the World Heritage sites.

“Conserving the environment does not hurt economic opportunities, it allows us to build sustainably on these irreplaceable assets,” Roberto Troya, WWF’s director for Latin America and the Caribbean, says in a press release. Tourism, recreational activities, and exports that rely on the environment all boost local communities.

And while World Heritage sites make up only 0.5 percent of the Earth’s surface, they can offer a model for partnership between economic and environmental goals around the world.

In the wetlands of Ichkeul National Park in Tunisia, for example, a sustainable management plan has saved bird populations and helped double the number of tourists coming to birdwatch, hike, and camel trek with local guides. A new buffer zone around Chitwan National Park in Nepal has brought the community back on board, committing half of tourism revenue to local development, and returning people’s vital rights to sustainably source wood and thatch inside the park. And Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the Philippines has ramped up their management of local fisheries, leading first to increased fish stocks and later to increased tourism and incomes.

“We need to wake up to the fact that people don’t just protect these sites, these sites protect people,” Mr. Lambertini says in a press release.

The report proposes five principles for promoting the mutual well-being of all Heritage Sites’ inhabitants: assessing the sites’ direct and indirect value; long-term thinking; local stakeholders; informed, transparent policymaking; and enforcement.


About E. Emmons Hahn

I am a cultural historian specializing in heritage and museum studies - particularly issues surrounding the ownership, interpretation, and presentation of historic works, sites and landscapes that are connected to identity narratives. I am also a writer, editor, and photographer, with a penchant for applying these skills to topics related to travel, cultural and natural heritage, and the arts. Throughout my work, I am passionate about teaching - helping others to develop their skills, deepen their understanding, question their assumptions, and realize their visions.
This entry was posted in Management Practices, Sustainability, Threats to Heritage and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Almost half of natural World Heritage sites under severe threat, says WWF –

  1. Mark Hahn says:

    Very positive approach – places protect people, not just the inverse!

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