Birdwatch Day for Saemangeum

Posted by ardeidae on January 17, 2006

I’ve been following Charlie’s Bird Blog for quite some time and consider it an essential read. I recently received an email from Charlie asking for some help.

I’ve just posted a piece on my homepage about the reclamation (ie destruction) of 40100ha of critically-important tidal-flats at a place called Saemangeum in South Korea, and plans to help finance a team of internationally-recognised researchers to survey the area before the sea-wall closes.

Charlie co-founded Birds Korea with his brother and two Korean colleagues a few years ago to help stop the destruction of habitat in the Yellow Sea eco-region. The posting on Charlie’s website is rather alarming.

This huge area is in the process of being closed off by a 6 metre high sea-wall. There will be no habitat left when “Saemangeum” is dried out, despite “plans” to build a 300ha “marsh”: a totally unsuitable habitat for tidal-flat, saltwater specialist feeders. In just a few years time 400,000 birds will have lost the most important staging area in the Yellow Sea. Add Saemangeum’s destroyed tidal flats to the huge reclamations that have already happened in Korea and China - and try to work out how these species are supposed to survive the 21st Century (we’re trying to, but it’s not easy is it?).

We (and other Korean NGOs) have fought very hard to get this project stopped, but the forces stacked up against us are rich, powerful, and influential. They may not have science on their side, but they have the impetus of a region that is developing without much regard to the environment whatsoever. Ask them to justify wiping off the map such an important staging area, and they counter - I’m paraphrasing here a little - with “Why not?”. An argument that the pro-reclamation camp has always used is that there is insufficient scientifically-valid data to show that a) the number of shorebirds using the area is as high as we know it to be, and that b) no-one can say for sure - despite it being obvious to anyone but a complete idiot - that reclaiming 40100ha of prime shorebird habitat will actually impact on the birds (I know, staggering, but any port in a storm of criticism…).

Birds Korea has been working hard to get an internationally-recognized group of researchers and ornithologists to South Korea to show how important the area is, but they need help. They’re up against developers with no conscience and a lot of money. Visit Charlie’s site for the full low-down and participate in “Birdwatch Day for Saemangeum”. Around 400,000 birds such as the Great Knot (Calidris tenuirostris), critically endangered Nordmann’s Greenshank (Tringa guttifer), and 10% of the world’s population of Spoon-billed Sandpiper (Eurynorhynchus pygmeus) are being threatened by this development. They could all use a little help.


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