Galapagos on UN Endangered List

by Himabindu Venkatakrishnan on  June 27, 2007 at 2:47 PM Environmental Health   - G J E 4
Galapagos on UN Endangered List
The UN has declared Galapagos Island 'in danger'. The Galapagos Islands has been listed as "in danger" because tourism is threatening the environment that helped shape Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

It is the first place on the planet officially designated as a World Heritage site.

Ecuador's Galapagos Islands is in danger as booming tourism and immigration threaten giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies unique to the archipelago. The 5,000 species of plants and animals create a vast living laboratory for scientists. There is a wide variety of unusual flora and fauna on the islands, much of it found nowhere else on the planet.

"They are threatened by invasive species, growing tourism and immigration," the UNESCO's world heritage committee meeting in New Zealand said a statement. And it is not just the Island but also the surrounding sea that is threatened too.

Isolated some 1,000km (620 miles) off of Ecuador's coast, the islands contain much unique plant and animal life. They were protected by UNESCO 1978, with the boundaries extended in 2001. The volcanic islands inspired British naturalist Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

It is Ecuador's most popular tourist attraction. The islands' growing tourism has lured thousands of workers' from the poor mainland to work in construction, restaurants and cruise ships. Some bring non-native species such as goat that compete for food with centenarian tortoises.

"The number of days spent by passengers of cruise ships has increased by 150% over the past 15 years," the organization said in a statement.

"This increase has fuelled a growth in immigration and the ensuing inter-island traffic has led to the introduction of more invasive species."

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa declared the islands at risk in April and has vowed to impose more rigorous population restrictions and temporarily suspend some tourism permits.

The year before, it has been decided to make the island a showcase for renewable energy in remote locations. Wind farm are being set up on San Cristóbal, the largest of four inhabitable islands in the Galapagos Archipelago. It is expected to generate up to 2.4 megawatts—meeting half the energy needs of San Cristóbal's 6,000 residents and reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 2,800 tons a year.

The project has come up with the help of The Ecuador government, the United Nations Foundation and the e7—a nonprofit group representing 10 electric companies in G8 countries. They are sharing the project's $10 million tab. The project also plants a seed for a more sustainable future on the Galapagos.

Source: Medindia

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