The reef should be put on a list of World Heritage sites that are “in danger”: UNESCO

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UNESCO released a draft report recommending that the reef be added to the list of heritage sites in danger. The “in danger” mark would mean the coral reef is just one step away from losing its title as a world heritage site.

Australia is opposing the move because it would bring disrespect to the nation, as the country might be considered responsible for not conserving such a prestigious site.

A committee was formed to decide on this recommendation, which China chairs. A committee meeting was held this Friday where the Australian environment minister Sussan Ley had made the following statement:

“Delegates, we ask only two things: time for experts to see first hand our commitment to the reef, its present condition and our management, and for the final climate policy to provide a consistent framework for addressing the impacts of climate change on all World Heritage properties.”

Following her discussion, it was decided that the reef will be added to the agenda once again in this committee’s annual meeting, which will happen in June. And in the meantime, a monitoring mission will visit the great reef to determine how the heritage site can be restored.

Why did UNESCO make such a statement?

The great barrier reef is the largest living structure on the planet, extending upto 2300 kilometres of stretch. It contains nearly 3000 reefs spread over an area the size of Italy. So, there is plenty of room right now for widespread damage and lots of relatively healthy reefs. That is something the dive operators have observed over the years.

After decades of degradation from local threats like pollution and overfishing – coral reefs have undergone a record-breaking ‘global bleaching event.’ This is the phenomenon where the coral turns white, putting them at a high risk of dying. 

Is it the first time Australia has faced this issue?

No, the issue was discussed for the very first time in 2012. The committee said it would put the great barrier reef on the in-danger list if Australia didn’t develop a long-term plan to protect it. 

The decision was repeated in 2013 and 2014 until finally, in 2015, the Australian Government produced the reef 2050 plan. The plan involved changes in some practices in the nation that would harm the ocean and the environment, in general. 

The committee agreed that they would come back in 2020 to review the state of conservation of the reef and how well the plan was implemented.

However, the state of the reefs has only seemed to have degraded over the years, given the overall temperature rise in the ocean. 

It will be critical to hear now what the monitoring mission has to say about the reef’s condition at this stage and how it can be restored.

Rajal Brahmbhatt
Rajal Brahmbhatt
I want to make words fun, someday! Yes, you heard that right. Being someone who panicked every time she saw a book with more than 200 pages, over the years I have 'suffered' for not knowing enough. To remove that, I decided to start the journey of going through those heavy books - few pages at a time. Soon, I realised I was in love. I was in love with the art, the style, the emotions, the metaphors and everything that made me a better person in the end. That's where the idea struck me - Why not take this relationship to the next stage? So these days, I try to scribble on every paper I can find to make some sense out of life. What makes me a good(ish) writer? Efforts, I guess. Believe me, I never stop trying :)

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