Unesco urged to probe Great Barrier Reef deforestation

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Sydney, June 25 (IANS) Four Australian non-profits have urged the Unesco to probe the government over its failure to conserve the Great Barrier Reef against deforestation, a letter revealed on Monday.

The Wilderness Society, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Australia, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Australian Marine Conservation Society had raised their concerns in the letter that was sent on Sunday to the Unesco World Heritage Committee’s annual meeting in Bahrain, reports Efe news.

“The (Prime Minister Malcolm) Turnbull Government claims it’s working hard to save the Great Barrier Reef but it’s taking little action on the biggest threats to the Reef – climate change and deforestation,” Lyndon Schneiders, Director of the Wilderness Society, said in a joint statement.

According to the non-profit groups, deforestation is leading to more sediments and nutrients in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef which could block light that corals need to survive.

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WWF-Australia Director Dermot O’Gorman warned that the Reef could disappear if the Australian government did not to take stronger action against climate change.

According to the statement, owing to permits issued by the previous government of the state of Queensland, around 36,600 hectares of primary forest have been earmarked to be bulldozed to make way for high value agriculture in the catchments of the Reef.

The current Queensland government cannot cancel the permits retrospectively. But they can be annulled by the federal government.

The Reef, which is home to 400 types of corals, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 varieties of molluscs, contributes around AU$6.4 billion ($4 billion) annually.

The biggest coral system in the world has been vulnerable since the 1990s owing to warming oceans and increasing acidity levels in the waters.

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