Advertisement

Follow Mint Lounge

Latest Issue

| Log In / Register

Home > Smart Living> Environment > Great Barrier Reef to Budapest: world heritage sites at risk

Great Barrier Reef to Budapest: world heritage sites at risk

Several spots risk losing their UN World Heritage status due to environmental damage, excess development or over-tourism

This photo taken on November 20, 2014 shows an aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of the Whitsunday Islands, along the central coast of Queensland.
This photo taken on November 20, 2014 shows an aerial view of the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of the Whitsunday Islands, along the central coast of Queensland. (AFP)

From Australia's Great Barrier Reef to the city of Budapest and the watery wonderland that is Venice, several beauty spots risk losing their treasured UN World Heritage status because of environmental damage, excess development or overtourism.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

In a draft report released ahead of a key meeting next month, the UN's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recommended Monday a major revamp of the heritage list. The reef is one of seven sites threatened with being added to the endangered heritage list.

MORE FROM THIS SECTION

view all

Also read: Unique Red Sea coral reefs are 'under threat' from an oil deal

According to an AFP report, environmental campaigners said the threat to the reef's heritage status highlighted Australia's lack of action to curb the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Their environment minister Sussan Ley said Australia would challenge the move.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Here is a look at some of the sites that risk losing their World Heritage status, a move that could seriously dent their tourist appeal.

Great Barrier Reef: IN DANGER

Stretching 2,300 kilometres (1,400 miles) along Australia's northeast coast, the world's largest coral reef system, a huge draw for tourists, has been battered by global warming.

In the past five years rising ocean temperatures have caused three episodes of mass coral bleaching, when the invertebrates expel the algae living in their tissues that supply a crucial source of nutrients.

The site, which has also been lashed by cyclones and attacked by crown-of-thorns starfish, has lost half its corals since 1995.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Canberra twice narrowly avoided having UNESCO put the reef on its endangered list, in 2015 and 2017.

Four years on, UNESCO acknowledges the government's efforts to shore up the site but notes that Australia's own outlook for the ecosystem has been downgraded from "poor" to "very poor."

It recommends adding the reef to its list of sites in danger, a first step towards it being stripped of its World Heritage status.

The MSC Orchestra cruise ship arrives on June 03, 2021 in Venice, Italy, to dock at the city's Santa Chiara maritime port.
The MSC Orchestra cruise ship arrives on June 03, 2021 in Venice, Italy, to dock at the city's Santa Chiara maritime port. (AFP)

Venice: IN DANGER

The former city-state of Venice was inscribed on the Heritage list in 1987 as "an extraordinary architectural masterpiece in which even the smallest building contains works by some of the world's greatest artists."

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

But for years now UNESCO has been echoing warnings by residents' groups about the damage caused by overtourism, saying it is driving an exodus from the city.

Also read: The Arctic: a coveted location with a threatened ecosystem

While noting that tourist numbers "drastically decreased" during the Covid-19 pandemic, UNESCO said the health crisis "also highlighted the need for more sustainable tourism management and the development of a more diverse resilient economic basis."

It also noted that although Venice recently banned giant cruise ships from docking inside the city centre at UNESCO's request, "it has no practical effect, as no alternative exists for the mooring of these large ships."

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

It proposes therefore to also add Venice to its endangered heritage list.

A general view during a ceremony to honour the victims on the 2nd anniversary of the Mermaid boat accident near Margaret bridge, on the Danube river, in Budapest, Hungary, May 29, 2021.
A general view during a ceremony to honour the victims on the 2nd anniversary of the Mermaid boat accident near Margaret bridge, on the Danube river, in Budapest, Hungary, May 29, 2021. (REUTERS)

Budapest: IN DANGER

The central European city on the Danube, which was conquered by the Turks and destroyed during World War II, won its UN listing as "an outstanding example of urban development."

But it now risks being delisted over a major renovation of the Buda Castle quarter, aimed at restoring it to its pre-World War II glory.

UNESCO argues that the reconstruction flouts international conservation norms and called for the work be halted.

The body said that the works are driven mainly by "ideological" considerations aimed at promoting Hungary's pre-Communist "national identity," and go beyond the minimal intervention recommended for historical monuments.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

As a result it has called for Budapest to be placed on the endangered heritage list.

Liverpool: FACES DELISTING

Liverpool played a major role in Britain's emergence as a pre-eminent trading power in the 18th and 19th centuries, with its port serving as a hub for the mass movement of people and goods between Europe and America.

But the redevelopment of its historic waterfront and northern dock area have landed it in hot water with UNESCO.

The agency has chided the city for failing to cap the heights for new buildings and said that plans for a new football stadium in Bramley-Moore Dock will lead to a "further deterioration" of the waterfront's "outstanding universal value."

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Saying that years of warnings have gone unheeded, UNESCO recommends taking Liverpool off the World Heritage list altogether.

Tourists watching a pair of lions, at the Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania. Selous gained World Heritage status in 1982 as one of the biggest remaining wilderness expanses in Africa.
Tourists watching a pair of lions, at the Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania. Selous gained World Heritage status in 1982 as one of the biggest remaining wilderness expanses in Africa. (Wikimedia Commons/BBM Explorer, Ipswich, United Kingdom)

Tanzania game reserve: FACES DELISTING

Selous Game Reserve gained World Heritage status in 1982 as one of the biggest remaining wilderness expanses in Africa, teeming with wildlife including elephants and black rhinos.

But in 2014, it was downgraded to the endangered heritage list as poachers began to decimate the elephant population.

The UN has also expressed alarm over the sale of logging rights inside the reserve as well as more recent plans for the construction of a dam on the Rufiji river, the country's largest.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Lamenting Tanzania's decision to forge ahead with the project, despite the ecological threat to the floodplain, UNESCO says the reserve's "outstanding" character has suffered "irreversible" damage and recommended that it be taken off the World Heritage list.

(With inputs from AFP)

Also read: Scientists are on a quest to save a climate ally: seagrasses

Next Story

LATEST ISSUES

Next Story

ADVERTISEMENT