Australia’s Great Barrier Reef to be added in world heritage in danger list warns UNESCO
UNESCO has warned Australia that it could list the Great Barrier Reef on the world heritage in danger site following the controversy over a plan to dump dredge waste nearby.
In a report released on Thursday, UNESCO said: “It has noted with concern and regrets a decision by the Australian government in January to grant a permit to dump three million cubic meters of dredge waste around 25 km (16 miles) from the reef and the permit was approved despite an indication that less-impacting disposal alternatives may exist.”
The waste comes from Abbott Point, located south of Townsville on the Queensland coast – part of a major development plan – to allow several companies to export coal reserves from the Galilee Basin area through the Abbott Point port.
UNESCO pointed out that the scientists have warned the sediment could smother and poison the world’s most diverse natural ecosystems.
The world heritage organisation has recommended the committee to consider adding the reef to the world heritage in danger list in 2015, unless the government protects the reef.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has supported the UNESCO warning and asked the Australian government to revise its plan to preserve the coral reef.
Commenting on the report, WWF Australia spokesman Richard Leek said: “UNESCO’s concern is shared by thousands of Australians and hundreds of leading scientists and we call on the federal government to ban dumping of dredge soil in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area prior to the World Heritage Committee meeting.”
The Australian government, although has rejected the criticism.
Australian environment minister Greg Hunt said: “Protection for the Great Barrier Reef is an ongoing challenge and we are confident that we have the processes, resources and environmental protection mechanisms in place to ensure that the Great Barrier Reef continues to be among the best managed and protected World Heritage areas in the world.”
The World Heritage Committee will make its final decision on the status of the reef at its annual meeting between 15th-25th June in Doha, Qatar.
The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reefs. It stretches for more than 2,600km (1,680 miles) along the Australian eastern coast and is home to 1,500 species of fish. It attracts more than 1.6 million visitors each year and contributes more than AU$ 5 billion to the country’s economy.