Published: Wednesday 31 May 2000

A study sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Bank has sent out clear signals that human beings will eventually pay the price for over exploitation of the world's natural resources. "For too long, in both rich and poor nations, development priorities have focussed on how much humanity can take from our ecosystems, with little attention to the impact of our actions," states the report, further pointing out that this could result in "devastating implications" for human development.

Comprising the findings of 197 scientists, the report will be the deciding factor on whether the UN will embark on a more extensive study on the state of the world's environmental well-being, similar to an examination of climate change that has been underway since the early 1990s.

The latest findings, based on a two-year study, assessed the current health of agriculture, coastal areas, forests, freshwater, environments and grasslands. Commenting on the findings, UN executive director Klaus Topfer said, "We can continue blindly altering the Earth's ecosystems, or we can learn to use them more sustainably."

The report states that while half of the world's wetlands have been lost in the past 100 years, half of the world's forests have disappeared and tropical deforestation continues at an alarming rate. Further, according to the findings by the scientists, dams and other diversions have fragmented 60 per cent of the world's largest rivers.

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