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  • Pelicans are seen in the Divjake-Karavasta lagoon National Park in Divjaka, Albania.

    Pelicans are seen in the Divjake-Karavasta lagoon National Park in Divjaka, Albania. | Photo: Reuters

Published 18 May 2018

James Watson, a professor at the University of Queensland and co-author of the report, said the data “stunned” him.

Industrial farming, road-building, and other human-made development projects have put almost a third of the world's protected wildlife areas at risk. The massive expansion of these development projects around the world, according to scientists at the University of Queensland in Australia, has undermining preservation goals for the millions of species. 

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In a report published in the journal Science, the researchers wrote that “Six million square kilometers (or 2.3 million square miles) — 32.8 percent — of protected land is under intense human pressure,” due to cities, industrial farming, roads, and railways. The area is approximately the size of India and Argentina combined.

James Watson, a professor at the University of Queensland and co-author of the report, said the data “stunned” him. “Governments are claiming these places are protected for the sake of nature when in reality they aren’t," he said.

The scientists also noted that, in general, many human-made protected areas for (so-called) wildlife are falling short of their intended goals.

In 2010, almost 200 countries ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity, or CBD, which intends to set aside a minimum of 17 percent of the world's land mass in parks and other sanctuaries by 2020. The idea behind the plan is to shield animals and plants from modernization, development and its human-induced pollution, not to speak of climate change.

While governments exalt the virtue that protected lands have nearly doubled since the early 1990s, covering some 15 percent of the world’s land mass, Cristiana Pasca Palmer, the CBD's executive secretary, stated that “there is indeed a risk for protected areas to be misrepresented as paper parks.”

National parks in South Korea and Ukraine were cited in the study to demonstrate how preserved areas are being compromised in the name of development. Satellite images showed Kamianets-Podilskyi, an expanding city within a national park in Ukraine, as well as farms and other buildings in Dadohaehaesang national park in South Korea.

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