By Mahenau Leghari
The Reef 2050 is a long-term sustainability plan for the Great Barrier Reef that was launched by the Australian and Queensland government in 2015. The Great Barrier Reef off the North-east coast of Australia is continuing to be damaged by environmental pollution and climate change. The Plan brings together state governments, industries, researchers, and local communities for the first time.
The plan was recommended by the World Heritage Committee to preserve the Reef’s Outstanding Universal Value. Since 2015, however, the Reef has been greatly affected by mass coral bleaching events in 2016 and 2017, including the severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie in 2017.
Because of these ongoing events, the Great Barrier Reef Ministerial Forum scheduled a mid-term review of the Plan to assure that it remained effective and that it addressed the Reef’s new issues, and an updated Plan was put in place as a result.
The Plan hopes to build up the Reef’s resilience to global warming by improving water quality, maintaining biodiversity, and ensuring that the use of ports and shipping has minimal impact on the Reef.
The governments have planned to invest over 2 billion Australian dollars for partnerships, current, and future investments, and, of course, the Plan’s priorities and strategies for reaching its goals. Although the Plan still has a long way to go, the governments have already fixed some of the Reef’s main issues.
Just 18 months ago, there were five major industrial ports suggesting the use of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park as a place to remove sediment in order to reshape the seafloor so that it is safe and easy for vessels to access ports and harbors.
Now, the number of industrial ports proposing this has dropped to zero, as the Australian and Queensland governments are placing a permanent ban on the removal of sediment in both the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the World Heritage Area.
Future plans for sustaining the Reef recognize the many challenges, such as climate change, poor water quality from land-based runoffs, impacts from coastal developments, and illegal fishing. These issues are being worked on as a part of the National Environmental Science Programme, and have already spent nearly 32 million Australian dollars for a new Tropical Water Quality hub, which will research the Reef’s water quality and coastal management.
The governments have promised to put in their best effort to manage and protect the Reef, and have stated on their website, “the more we learn about the Reef through our research, the better equipped we are to ensure it remains healthy for future generations.” The Plan will not only improve the Reef’s health, but it will also serve as an example that other areas with environmental issues can be helped with the right research and action.