World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released a report titled ‘Protecting people through nature’ with the subtitle ‘Natural world heritage sites as Drivers of sustainable development.’ The report was launched in April 2016.
The report says that nearly half of the iconic 229 natural and mixed World Heritage sites in 96 countries around the world, including Western Ghats, face significant threats.
Further, the iconic symbols of conservation are facing threats to their unique values, putting the livelihoods and well-being of people who depend on them at risk.
• Almost half of all natural World Heritage sites, and their outstanding universal value, are threatened by harmful industrial activities.
• Eleven million people, equivalent to the population of Portugal, depend on these sites, and could be affected negatively by the impacts of harmful industrial activities.
• Avoiding these harmful industrial activities and focusing on sustainable, carefully managed alternatives will enhance World Heritage sites and the benefits they provide.
• As the World Heritage Committee has recognized the potential for World Heritage sites to support sustainable development, it should be incorporated into the management of sites going forward.
• Five key principles are consistent across examples of well managed World Heritage sites, and can help decision makers achieve an appropriate and equitable balance between conservation, sustainability and development. These five key principles include:
1. Valuation that it is socially conscious
2. Investment decisions that focus on long-term value
3. Governance that is representative of all beneficiaries
4. Policymaking that is evidence based and transparent
5. Regulators that are enforced and followed
Report with respect to India
• In context of India, the report talks about Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area, Kaziranga National Park, Keoladeo National Park, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Nanda Devi and Valley of Flowers National Parks, Sundarbans National Park and Western Ghats.
• It says that three of the seven such Indian sites, namely Manas Wildlife Sanctuary, Sundarbans National Park, and the serial sites of Western Ghats, are threatened by harmful industrial activities such as mining.
• Western Ghats supports the single largest population of endangered Asian elephants and vulnerable Indian bison, faces the extractive threats that include oil/gas concessions and mines/mining concessions.
• On the other hand, Sundarbans National Park and Manas Wildlife Sanctuary are facing non-extractive threats.
• The non-extractive threats include dams/water management/water use (unsustainable water use), Logging/wood harvesting, marine/fresh water aquaculture (overfishing), roads/railways, shipping lanes and utility/service lines.
Global Call of Action
To manage these Natural World Heritage sites like Galápagos Islands, Mount Kilimanjaro and the Grand Canyon, the WWF has recommended Global Call of Action from national government, world heritage committee, corporate and finance entities and civil society groups and non-governmental organisations.
Global Call of Action for the national government includes
• Ensure that no harmful industrial activities, which involve significant impacts on the attributes of outstanding universal value and other natural, economic and cultural values, are permitted in world heritage sites or in the areas that could negatively affect them.
• Integrate a sustainable development perspective into the processes of the world heritage convention, as indicated by the policy recently adopted by the states parties to the convention, as a first step to recognizing the potential of world heritage sites to deliver outcomes in line with the sustainable development goals.
• Incorporate the ecosystem and biodiversity value of world heritage sites into national and local planning and development strategies as a way of advancing 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly goals 14 and 15.
• Guarantee that those who depend on world heritage sites for their livelihoods and well-being are informed and consulted adequately about proposed projects by applying the principle of free, prior and informed consent, as well as applicable international standards for community consultation and engagement.
• Define clear buffer zones that help maintain the outstanding universal value of world heritage sites by providing an additional layer of protection to sites.
• Hold accountable multinational enterprises, operating in or from their territories to the highest standards of corporate accountability and stewardship.
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When: April 2016