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WWF: Half of natural World Heritage Sites threatened by industry

The conservation group WWF has warned that nearly half of natural World Heritage Sites are under threat from industry. The sites provide valuable economic, social and environmental benefits to communities.

Almost half of all natural World Heritage Sites, including the Great Barrier Reef and Germany's Wadden Sea, are threatened by industrial activities, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF, formerly "World Wildlife Fund") warned on Wednesday.

Of the 229

natural and mixed cultural World Heritage Sites,

114 are under are threat from oil and gas exploration and extraction, mining,

illegal logging,

construction, overfishing or unsustainable water use. Some are threatened by multiple industrial activities.

"Despite the obvious benefits of these natural areas, we still haven't managed to decouple economic development from environmental degradation," WWF director general Marco Lambertini said in the report.

Natural World Heritage Sites - including national parks, nature preserves, reefs, coastal areas and forests - are not only environmental treasures for all of humanity, but provide food, water, medicine and tourism income to more than 11 million people.

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By some estimates, all of the world's natural protected areas receive 8 billion visitors a year, creating $600 billion in economic activity. Some of these are World Heritage Sites.

"Protecting natural areas and ecosystems is not antidevelopment. It is in the interest of long-term, robust and sustainable development that benefits people and natural systems, including our social stability, economic prosperity, and individual well-being," Lambertini said.

Some World Heritage Sites also play an important role in larger ecosystems, sucking up climate change causing greenhouse gases and protecting fish and wildlife.

"Healthy, natural World Heritage sites contribute to poverty reduction, help alleviate food insecurity, combat climate change and restore and promote the sustainable use of ecosystems," said Lambertini.

Among the sites under threat is the Great Barrier Reef, which has experienced coral bleaching and is under threat from the development of the giant

Carmichael coal mine.
Korallbleiche

Healthy coral (L) compared to bleached coral.

The world's second largest reef system in Belize is also under threat, as are the Galapagos Islands and Peru's iconic Machu Pichu. The Grand Canyon in the United States is under threat from dams and overuse of water.

The unique tidal zones of the

Wadden Sea

shared by Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark are also under threat from oil and gas concessions and shipping, WWF said.

The Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany, a transnational site that includes five German forests on the Baltic Sea, are also under threat from oil and gas concessions, WWF said.

Deutschland Nationalpark Wattenmeer

The Wadden Sea consists of tidal flats and wetlands.

The WWF urged governments to abide by their commitments and cancel projects that threaten World Heritage Sites.

It also called on companies to stop industrial activities in protected areas, and is asking financial institutions not to fund them.

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