QUITO – The Ecuadorian government said it is satisfied with Unesco’s decision to remove the Galapagos Islands from its World Heritage in Danger list, three years after it had been included due to a rise in tourism and immigration and the introduction of non-native species.
The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s World Heritage Committee, which met Wednesday in Brasilia, made the decision after evaluating the steps taken by Ecuador to solve the problems detected in 2007, Ecuador’s minister of natural and cultural heritage, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, told Efe.
In the vote by the U.N. panel, representatives from 14 countries voted to remove Galapagos from the list, five opposed the move and one abstained, Espinosa said.
Ecuador’s representatives on the panel, headed by Environment Minister Marcela Aguiñaga, communicated the results to Espinosa.
Also representing Ecuador in the Unesco commission’s 34th session were the country’s deputy minister of natural and cultural heritage, Juan Carlos Coellar, and Galapagos National Park director Edwin Naula.
“This is good news because it recognizes all the efforts the Ecuadorian government has made since 2007” to overcome the problems, Espinosa said.
She highlighted the actions taken to control the flow of immigrants who arrive from the Ecuadorian mainland and the strict measures adopted to avoid the introduction of non-native species, which can endanger the archipelago’s fragile ecosystem.
The minister also mentioned the plans in place to regulate tourism and change the energy matrix on the islands by incorporating clean energy such as solar and wind power and minimizing the use of polluting fossil fuels.
The minister added that the national government will maintain its commitment “to Galapagos, the country and the planet.”
The Galapagos Islands are located about 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) west of the coast of continental Ecuador and were declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site in 1978.
Some 95 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.
The islands 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. EFE