Nov 25, 2014 07:04 PM

Scientists Issue Warning over Development of Coastal Wetlands

(Beijing) -- Scientists have sounded the alarm over what they say is excessive development of China's coastal wetlands that has already led to billions of dollars in losses from deterioration to the environment.

Scientists from China, the United States, Netherlands and New Zealand have written an article in the latest issue of the magazine Science that says building of seawalls to protect land used for development will have environmental repercussions.

The November article is headlined "Rethinking China's new great wall" and says the building of seawalls covers 60 per cent of the Chinese mainland's coastline of 18,000 kilometers.

The scientists' paper warned that this "caused a dramatic decline in internationally shared biodiversity and associated ecosystem services and will threaten regional ecological security and sustainable development."

China has in recent years carried out a large amount of land reclamation along its coastal regions, which comprise 13 per cent of the country's land mass but contribute 60 per cent of its gross domestic product, the scientists say.

Since 2000, the country has reclaimed 40,000 hectares of coastal wetland each year for industrial parks, ports and other projects, up from 24,000 hectares a year from 1950 to 2000.

Citing government land reclamation plans, the scientists said the figure is expected to rise to 60,000 hectares per year from this year until 2020.

This building has caused the country problems such as water pollution, environmental degradation and the coastal region's vulnerability to climate change.

Land reclamation in coastal areas had caused China US$ 31 billion in losses due to the deterioration of the ecosystem, the article said, citing research from China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development.

The scientists attributed the expansion of seawalls to an obsession with GDP growth, lack of laws and their enforcement, and conflicts of interest between the central and regional governments.

China formed an action plan for protecting its wetlands in 2000, and announced a blueprint for wetland conservation projects four years later.

The country has designated 34 nature reserves in coastal regions, and 14 of them are protected by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. However, there has been little enforcement because jurisdictions are unclear.

(Rewritten by Li Rongde)

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