Economic development has many benefits, lifting people out of poverty, spreading access to vital services, like health care and the Internet, and providing numerous other benefits. Unfortunately, however, continued economic development is also putting pressure on World Heritage sites, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
Construction, logging, mining, pollution, oil and gas exploration, over fishing, and various other human activities are now posing a severe threat to 96 of the 229 world heritage sites designated around the world. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization designates sites as “World Heritage” sites, which provides some protection and resources for preservation under international law.
Still, if we want to preserve these sites for future generations, conscious, and extensive efforts will need to be made by both local and international authorities to preserve these sites. In this spirit, the WWF proposes five principles for promoting the well-being of all heritage sites. These five principles include assessing the sites’ indirect and direct value, informed, transparent policy making and enforcement, engaging local stakeholders, and long-term thinking.
World Heritage sites are sites of exceptional importance to the earth, and are selected according to ten different criterion. These sites can be man-made, such as Machu Picchu, or naturally occurring, such as the Great Barrier Reef. Criteria can range from being exemplary instances of evolution and biological progress, to representing achievements of human genuis.
Some 11 million people live within the 229 different sites, and their livelihoods are often closely intertwined with the sites themselves. For example, more than 90 percent of the sites provide employment, such as opportunities in the tourism industry. These sites, by the way, only cover about .5% of the world’s surface, but have become important for building international relationships and preservation efforts.