Almost a third of all natural World Heritage Sites have the threat of oil, gas and mining exploration hanging over them, according to the new report Safeguarding Outstanding Natural Value, published by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), Aviva Investors and Investec Asset Management in October 2015. This threat rises to an alarming 61 per cent in Africa.
The threat level relates to active operations by extractive companies, or intrusion that may come as a result of concessions for the exploration of minerals or oil and gas overlapping these sites.
The new assessment puts the risk at a higher level than previously thought. The report also brings to light the risk to investors of involvement with extractives companies working, or intending to work, in or near these special places. Investors are being warned of their risk exposure if they back the companies involved, both in terms of financial risk and threats to their reputation; in short, there is too much risk for not enough reward in this case.
Covering less than one per cent of the planet and containing outstanding natural value such as iconic landscapes and species, natural World Heritage Sites are in increasing danger of exploitation and irreparable damage, which, in turn, damages the communities who depend on those places for their livelihoods. Furthermore, natural World Heritage Sites are home to some of the rarest and most treasured animals on earth, such as mountain gorillas, African elephants, snow leopards, whales and marine turtles.
The authors put forward that alternative and sustainable development of natural World Heritage Sites is a far better solution to safeguard the future of both natural resources and local, national and global communities. If the sites and their ecosystems remain intact, these unique places can provide long-term, significant benefits: 93 per cent of natural World Heritage Sites deliver recreation and tourism benefit, 91 per cent provide employment, and 84 per cent contribute to education.
More information:Safeguarding Outstanding Natural Value