Australia hails decision to keep Great Barrier Reef off danger list

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SYDNEY. KAZINFORM - Australia on Wednesday welcomed a decision by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee not to place the Great Barrier Reef, the country's greatest natural icon, on a list of World Heritage sites in danger.

"The world's umpire has declared the Great Barrier Reef is not in danger," Environment Minister Greg Hunt said in a statement issued after the 21-member-country committee's decision was announced in Bonn, Germany, earlier in the day. "This is great news for Australia...and it's great news for the Great Barrier Reef," he said in a statement. The committee's decision not to inscribe the reef on its List of World Heritage in Danger comes three years after it first threatened to do so over concerns about planned coastal developments, including development of ports and liquefied natural gas facilities. It means the natural wonder, which lies off the coast of Queensland, will remain on the UNESCO watch list for another four years, while the Australia government will keep committee updated on progress made in implementing its new Great Barrier Reef 2050 sustainability plan. "The final decision...rightly reflects the tremendous effort of Australia to carefully protect this iconic national and international asset," Hunt said in the statement. He said the committee was assured of Australia's commitment to protect the reef, including by banning the dumping of dredged material within the reef, increasing monitoring efforts, restricting port development and reducing water pollution. "This is backed by substantial financial resources with over A$2 billion (US$1.53 billion) projected to be invested in managing and protecting the reef over the coming decade," he said. The reef, which is the biggest coral reef system on Earth and covers an area of 348,000 square kilometers, was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981. The International Union for Conservation of Nature, which advised the committee on issue, called the Bonn decision a "tough but balanced one." In a statement, it said the decision on one hand recognized Australia's efforts to forge a sustainability plan for the reef, which is facing "unprecedented challenges" that require an "equally unparalleled" response to address them. At the same time, the committee sought continued close monitoring of the reef "Australia's new plan is a welcome and important step to support the Great Barrier Reef's resilience, particularly in the face of the global threat of climate change," said Tim Badman, director of IUCN's World Heritage Program, in a statement. "The plan now needs to translate into action, backed by adequate finance and rigorous science," he said. Source: Kyodo

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