Dr. Nial Moores, Birds Korea, January 23 2018
On January 17th 2018, Xinhua, the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China, announced that, “China has introduced its toughest regulation on land reclamation along the country’s coastline, vowing to demolish illegally reclaimed land and stop approving general reclamation projects.” The decision appeared to be taken in order to help protect marine resources (including fisheries) and to help curb pollution.
Lin Shanqing, deputy director of the national State Oceanic Administration, stated at a press conference on January 17th, that “Using reclaimed land for commercial real estate development is prohibited and all reclamation activities in the Bohai Sea area (northern part of the Yellow Sea) will be banned,” Lin said. Notably, Lin clarified that “Reclaimed land that has remained deserted for a long time will be confiscated.”
A more detailed account can be found on the excellent Birding Beijing website.
This is the kind of excellent policy decision on reclamation that we hoped we might have in the Republic of Korea (ROK), following the promise made by the administration of President Lee Myung-bak back in 2008 that no more large-scale reclamation projects would be permitted (see: Ramsar Resolution X.22 paragraph 22) and the then-President’s claim that the ROK would be “exemplary among the parties to the Ramsar Convention” (Lee’s Opening statement to Ramsar COP10, in Changwon, ROK).
Inexplicably, however, by early 2009 more large-scale reclamation projects had been approved in the ROK, including at Song Do, and the nation’s major rivers were soon after dredged and dammed as part of the ecologically devastating and prohibitively expensive Four Rivers project.
Further details of this latest evolution of policy in China are eagerly awaited. If fulfilled as announced on January 17th, it should mean that many of the Yellow Sea’s (and the Flyway’s) most important remaining wetlands will not be reclaimed. Some areas might even be restored. In turn, this means that there really could be a long-term future for some of this region’s iconic bird species including the Globally Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper and the globally Vulnerable Relict Gull.
We therefore want to congratulate all organisations, both GO and NGO (including the tireless Shanghai-based SBS in China of course!), and to thank them for their ability to overcome the dishonesty, greed and corruption that so often seem to be associated with the destruction of tidal-flats, and to promote and nurture instead the much more equitable and long-term benefits provided by wetland conservation.
Delighted by this news (a necessary and massive first step, before more detailed site-specific conservation measures can be undertaken), is it unreasonable to ask what a similar decision, if taken by the ROK, might mean for the conservation of birds and their habitats here in Korea, and for fisheries, for tourism, for national food security and for our national economy?
For example at Song Do in Incheon….
Reclamation for real estate and all the costs that incurs…Song Do in the Republic of Korea: reclamation of once vast tidal-flats, and Ramsar site designation for the slither that remains. In 2007, and again in 2009 (after Ramsar Resolution X.22), and 2014. Images © Nial Moores, Thomas Landenberg (2009 panorama) and Jan Van de Kam (shorebirds in front of tower blocks)
And how would such a decision affect land-use within the once wonderfully productive but now derelict Saemangeum, with all of its terrible costs?
The Dongjin estuary, Saemangeum in the Republic of Korea © Nial Moores, in 2004 (two years before seawall closure), 2010, in June 2017 and in January 2018.