Are you a traveller who likes to go off the beaten track? But have you ever wondered what might happen if the beaten track stopped existing? Well, that’s exactly what’s happening to a few well-known tourist attractions around the world. Due to a multitude of reasons, ranging from pollution, natural calamities and global warming, there are a few legendary spots across the globe which are on the brink of oblivion. Pack your bags and head on over to places on this list before they disappear entirely and become the stuff of stories and legends.
The Great Barrier Reef
The world’s largest coral reef system, which is located off the coast of Queensland, Australia, the Great Barrier Reef was designated a World Heritage Site way back in 1981. The reef is so large that it can be seen from space! Though the government of Australia is making serious efforts to protect this treasure, the reef has already experienced mass bleaching events many times. Climate change, pollution and over-fishing are all to blame if this beautiful natural attraction disappears. If things don’t change, its days are most definitely numbered.
The Amazon Rainforest
A tropical jungle that has been in existence for over 55 million years, the Amazon rainforest boasts unparalleled biodiversity. It is home to a whopping 2.5 million insect species alone, along with thousands of bird and mammal species, including the South American jaguar, bald uakari (a species of primate), howler monkey, brown-throated sloth, etc. But in the near future, this lush rainforest may stop existing altogether due to rampant deforestation. The authorities need to wake up and smell the forest fire before this ecological hotspot is reduced to farmland.
Glacier National Park
United States of America
A national park in the state of Montana which began forming 150 million years ago, this natural gem is spread across 1 million acres and is home to more than 130 pristine lakes. The diverse ecosystem here comprises upwards of 1,000 species of plants, along with hundreds of animal species. In the mid-19th century, scientists recorded the presence of 150 glaciers (hence the name), but by 2010, only 25 remained. It is estimated that all glaciers in the area will disappear by 2030 if steps aren’t taken to combat climate change, and species that are dependent on glacial melt will suffer. With the United States backing out of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017, this now seems like a distant dream. Visit this natural attraction before it’s too late.
India and Bangladesh
The largest coastal forest in the world, which is home to numerous animals such as tigers, crocodiles and deer, is under serious threat. Besides cyclones that regularly pummel the area, the Sundarbans coast is retreating up to 660ft every year due to climate change. Considering this mangrove forest forms an important protective shield against cyclones and tsunamis, the loss of this habitat will displace tens of thousands of individuals living in this region, not to mention the terrible toll on the unique biodiversity that can be found here.
The most well-known remnant from the once mighty Incan Empire, Machu Picchu was built in 1450, but now faces the threat of disappearance. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, UNESCO is now considering putting this wonder on its List of World Heritage in Danger. As this is the most visited tourist attraction in Peru, it witnesses an incredibly high volume of footfall. Rampant urban development, deforestation and landslides are all cause for concern. Though the Peruvian government only allows 2,500 visitors at the site per day, this marvellous piece of history is incredibly fragile. It doesn’t help that it is situated on the Tambomachay Fault, which may cause a devastating earthquake — a final nail in the coffin for this glorious site.
United States of America
The threat of pollution and global warming loom over the tundras, and one of the most sensitive regions is in Alaska. Scientists have observed that the Alaskan tundra, which used to be a carbon sink in the 1970s, has become a carbon source. This is because the permafrost here is melting, releasing carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Over time, this is bound to change the landscape radically and the animals that have made the frozen tundra their home may become endangered or even face extinction. Let’s hope that the US government wakes up before this frozen paradise is lost.
Unlike other entries on this list, this one isn’t a natural habitat, but a full-fledged city that is home to more than 2,50,000 people. Since the 20th century, Venice has been sinking. Though the sinking has slowed markedly since artesian wells that drew water from an aquifer beneath the city were banned, the city continues its downward spiral at the rate of 1—2mm per year. That doesn’t sound like much, right? Unfortunately, unless something is done, the city’s fate is sealed. The government began the construction of a movable barrier in 2003 to protect the city from flooding, but the work is yet to be completed. Take that romantic gondola ride while you can.
Got a tad worried when you saw a city on this list? Well, how about an entire country? The Maldives is a South Asian island country famed for its beautiful coral atolls and gorgeous beaches. But as sea levels continue to rise, this island nation is under threat from disappearing underwater forever. Scientists have predicted that if the human populace does not mend its ways and we are unable to reverse climate change (which already seems unlikely at this point), Maldives will disappear by 2100.
The Dead Sea
One of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, the Dead Sea might literally die. The water level of one of the world’s saltiest water bodies is dropping by a whopping 3 feet a year! One of the main causes of the lake’s recession has been the diversion of water from the Jordan River, its only source, by Jordan and Israel. Thousands of sinkholes have appeared in the region as the groundwater level has rapidly dropped. So, if you want a picture of yourself casually reading a book as you bob on the lake whose waters are nine times as salty as the ocean, you better head there fast.
The Forests of Madagascar
The nation of Madagascar is located off the eastern coast of Africa on the fourth largest island on earth. Its verdant forests are home to a vast array of animals, 90% of which aren’t found anywhere else in the world! However, it has been estimated that Madagascar has already lost 80% of its original forest cover. The main culprits? Agriculture, as farmers continue to use the slash and burn technique (known locally as tavy) to clear forests, and the demand for timber. Wildlife enthusiasts should head to this unique ecological wonder before it’s history.
There is still time for the human race to protect these amazing places from disappearing, but we need to act fast. Perhaps this list will encourage our readers to become more responsible and environmentally conscious. Every small step counts — whether it’s cycling to work rather than driving, using less plastic or choosing hotels and resorts that practise responsible tourism. Let’s try and change our world for the better before these gems are lost forever.