Great Barrier Reef at risk of being placed on UNECSO danger list: Australian minister

SYDNEY, Dec. 2 (Xinhua) -- Australia's Great Barrier Reef is at risk of being placed on UNESCO's World Heritage "in danger" list after land clearing laws failed to be passed through parliament, a government minister conceded on Friday.

The Commonwealth and Queensland state governments have delivered the progress reports on the reef's protection efforts to UNESCO (The United NationsEducational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in Paris which are in the midst of their latest assessments on the health of the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef.

Australia is relying on its Reef 2050 plan to keep the productive habitat off the "in danger list," which would inevitably cause tourism income losses. The mass coral bleaching event earlier this year and the QLD (Queensland) government's failure to pass land clearing laws however are cause for concern.

"I think it's a low possibility at this stage, but certainly higher than what we would have thought coming out of that last meeting (with UNESCO)," Queensland state Environment Minister Steven Miles was quoted by Australia's national broadcaster on Friday.

"After that last meeting, this progress report was a low-level check-in to see if Australia and Queensland were doing the things we said we would do."

"Of course since then we have had the catastrophic bleaching event, as well as failure of Queensland Parliament to pass the land clearing laws. So those two things together increase the risk there will be that level of attention."

Last year UNESCO didn't list the site on the "in danger list" due to the Reef 2050 plan, but only 32 of the plan's 151 actions have been achieved. The government is hoping the progress on another 103 will keep any moves at bay, despite three initiatives being delayed.

Miles re-assured the global community Australia understands the role land clearing plays in driving pollutants onto the reef, and will reintroduce legislation "as soon as a majority of members in Queensland's Parliament are willing to put the reef ahead of their petty political interests."

[ Editor: meng ]


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