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Almost half of all natural World Heritage sites, including the Great Barrier Reef and the Wadden Sea in Germany, are threatened by industrial activities, warned the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF, formerly "World Wildlife Fund ") on Wednesday.
Of the 229 cultural and mixed World Heritage sites, 114 are under threat from oil and gas exploration and extraction, mining, illegal logging, construction, overfishing or unsustainable use of water. Some are threatened by multiple industrial activities.
"Despite the obvious benefits of these natural areas, we have still not succeeded in separating economic development from environmental degradation," WWF Director General Marco Lambertini said in the report.
Natural World Heritage Sites, including national parks, nature reserves, reefs, coastal areas and forests, are not only environmental treasures for all of humanity, but provide food, water, medicine and tourism income to more of 11 million people
By some estimates, all of the world's protected natural areas receive 8 billion visitors a year, generating $ 600 billion in economic activity. Some of these are world heritage sites.
“Protecting natural areas and ecosystems is not anti-development. It is in the interests of robust and sustainable development in the long term that benefits people and natural systems, including our social stability, economic prosperity and individual well-being, ”said Lambertini.
Some World Heritage sites also play an important role in larger ecosystems, absorbing the greenhouse gases that are causing climate change and protecting fish and wildlife.
"Healthy and 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 threatened by the development of the giant Carmichael coal mine.
The second largest reef system in the world in Belize is also under threat, as are the Galapagos Islands and Peru's iconic Machu Pichu. The Grand Canyon of the United States is threatened by dams and excessive use of water.
The only tidal zones in the Wadden Sea shared by Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark are also threatened by oil and gas concessions and shipping, WWF said.
The primary beech forests of the Carpathians and the former beech forests of Germany, a transnational site that includes five German forests in the Baltic Sea, are also threatened by oil and gas concessions, WWF said.
The Wadden Sea is made up of tidal flats and wetlands.
The WWF urged governments to meet their commitments and cancel projects that threaten World Heritage sites.
He also called on companies to stop industrial activities in protected areas, and is asking financial institutions not to finance them.
Original article (in English)