World Heritage site the Great Barrier Reef will now get a fresh lease of life as the Australian government has sanctioned A$500 million for protection of the reef.
According to BBC, the Great Barrier Reef lost almost 30% of its corals due to bleaching, a result of rising sea temperatures and damages by crown-of-thorns starfish.
Aerial surveys conducted in 2017 showed two-thirds of the reef has been damaged due to coral bleaching.
Australia Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said large amounts of sediment, nitrogen and pesticide run-off are also destroying the Great Barrier Reef.
“The Turnbull Government will protect thousands of jobs, improve water quality, tackle coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish and implement scientific reef restoration on the Great Barrier Reef. The Reef is a critical national asset providing $6.4 billion a year to the Queensland and Australian economies,” he said in a media release.
“The Turnbull Government will invest more than $500 million – the largest ever single investment – to protect the reef, secure its viability and the 64,000 jobs that rely on the Reef,” Frydenberg added.
The government funds will be used to reduce runoff of agricultural pesticides and improve water quality. The government will also help farmers near the reef modify their agricultural practices so that they do not affect the reef in a negative way.
“The Turnbull Government will partner with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation through a ground-breaking $444 million agreement to tackle crown-of-thorns starfish, reduce pollution into the Reef and mitigate the impacts of climate change,” said the Environment Minister.
Australian Academy of Science appreciated the government approach and tweeted: “We welcome the investment in the #GBR, particularly funding for science to support Reef resilience & adaptation, but the science advises us the #GBR is highly vulnerable to climate change. We urge the government to address the cause of the problem.”
Here are 10 interesting things to know about the Great Barrier Reef:
1. The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest coral reef system made of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands.
2. Located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Australia’s Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef stretches over 2,300 kilometres over an area of around 344,400 square kilometres.
3. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living thing on Earth that is visible from outer space.
4. The Great Barrier Reef is the home of over 600 types of hard and soft coral.
5. Apart from corals, six species of turtles, 215 species of birds, 17 species of sea snakes and over 1,500 species of fish can be found here.
6. In fact, 10% of the world’s fish species can be found in the Great Barrier Reef.
7. The reef is supposedly twenty million years old.
8. The Great Barrier Reef attracts 2 million visitors each year, as per government records.
9. According to greatbarrierreef.org, tourism to the reef generates about AU$5-6 billion annually.
10. Area wise, the Great Barrier Reef is somewhat the same size as Italy, Germany, Malaysia or Japan.
Sreya is based in Kolkata. She is a Senior Editor of Big Wire.