QUITO – Ecuador’s environment minister said on Wednesday that her country has been taking all the steps necessary to secure the Galapagos Islands’ removal from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s list of endangered World Heritage Sites.
Marcela Aguiñaga told Radio Publica that “Ecuador has been meeting UNESCO’s requirements insofar as submitting reports” at regular intervals.
“The most recent progress report on all the areas that were called into question with respect to the administration and management of the islands was submitted in February,” the minister said.
Although no concrete agenda has been set, “the Ecuadorian government has requested that we be received at the (next session of the UNESCO) General Conference to report on the actions we’ve taken to remove that heritage site from this category,” since there have been “highly significant advances” in terms of conservation, Aguiñaga said.
According to the minister, removing the Galapagos Islands from the list of endangered World Heritage Sites – on which it was included in 2007 due to threats to environmental conservation posed by excessive tourism, an increase in population and the arrival of non-native species – does not only depend on Ecuador but “on the will of the remaining (UNESCO) members.”
Separately, the minister referred to the visit that Britain’s Prince Charles made to the islands two weeks ago and said that he expressed interest in supporting the creation of “technical capacities that ensure that urban planning is improved in a way more compatible with conservation.”
The Galapagos Islands are located about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) west of the coast of continental Ecuador and were made famous by 19th-century British naturalist Charles Darwin, whose observations of life on the islands contributed greatly to his theory of the evolution of species.
Ninety-five percent of the territory’s 8,000 sq. kilometers (a little over 3,000 sq. miles) constitutes a protected area that is home to more than 50 species of animals and birds found nowhere else on the planet.
In 1978, the Galapagos National Park was inscribed as a World Heritage site and in 1984 the islands became an UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve.
In 2001, UNESCO extended the Galapagos World Heritage status to include the marine reserve of 43,500 square miles of ocean surrounding the islands. EFE