The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization committee, on June 22, 2021, recommended that the Great Barrier Reef should be added to a list of ‘in danger’ World Heritage Sites.
The UN committee, under the aegis of UNESCO, said that the world’s biggest coral reef system has deteriorated, and action is required to counter the effect of climate change. However, the recommendation has drawn opposition from Australia stating political interference.
Defending Australia’s protection of the reef, Australia’s Environment Minister Sussan Ley said that the government would challenge the recommendation.
Australia’s protection of the reef: Background
•Australia has been fighting hard for the past four years to keep the Great Barrier Reef off the ‘in danger’. The reef is a major tourist attraction in Australia that generates thousands of jobs. Listing it on the ‘in danger’ World Heritage Sites could potentially lead to its removal from World Heritage Sites.
•UNESCO World Heritage delegates were hosted on a trip to a stretch of the reed in 2015 but scientists since then noted that the world’s biggest coral reef system has experienced three major coral bleaching events because of severe marine heatwaves.
•Australia has raised concerns stating that the recommendation is based on political bias. However, environment experts and scientists rejected the theory of political bias. Richard Leck, Head of Oceans for the World Wide Fund for Nature, Australia said that the recommendation has been made by world-renowned scientists.
Great Barrier Reef
•World’s largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef is in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland, Australia. The system was declared a World Heritage Site in 1981.
•The world’s biggest reef system consists of 900 islands across a stretch of 2,300 km cover an area of 344,400 sq km. There are about 2,900 individual reefs.
•The biggest reef system in the world, built by tiny organisms called coral polyps is visible from outer space as well.