Sydney: The Great Barrier Reef near Australia could be stripped of its heritage status and placed on a UN list of world treasures in danger if action is not taken to better protect the natural icon from coal and gas developments, environment groups have warned.
A number of green groups launched the Fight for the Reef campaign in Canberra, warning state and federal politicians were putting the reef's international reputation at risk.
Last year UNESCO was 'sufficiently concerned' by proposed developments along the Queensland coast that it sent a mission to Australia to investigate, the campaign's director Felicity Wishart said.
According to news.com.au, it made a number of recommendations to the commonwealth and Queensland governments about how to proceed in the best interests of the reef.
The global heritage body could place the reef, the world's longest coral reef system, on the 'world heritage in danger' list if it does not receive an adequate response by February, the report said.
Wishart said such action would be an international embarrassment that threatened both the reef ecosystem and the six billion dollars tourism industry it supports.
She said the campaign, formed by the Australian Marine Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund, had written to all the major parties in a bid to get the reef on the 2013 election agenda, the report said.
According to the report, at the centre of their concerns are 45 major industrial developments proposed for the coast, including large-scale coal and gas projects that would boost shipping over the reef.
Wishart said that the main concern is that the government, which has a 'proud track record' of defending the reef, was not now taking this issue seriously.
The Great Barrier Reef was granted world heritage status in 1981, but has since faced numerous threats from coral bleaching to cyclones, runoff, Crown-of-thorns starfish and commercial activity, the report added.
First Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013, 12:31