BirdLife: The Magazine Apr-Jun 2018 - Page 58

flyways China pulls the plug on wetland drainage In a massive boost to the tens of millions of migratory shorebirds that use the East Asian-Australasian Flyway, the Chinese government has announced that it will halt all “business-related” land reclamation along its coast Terry Townshend newsflash that seemed to come from nowhere set the year off to a promising start this January, when the Chinese government announced its intention to stop the drainage and development of its intertidal zone for commercial purposes. It came not a moment too soon for Critically Endangered shorebirds such as the Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea, who rely upon the mudflats of the East Coast as a strategic rest and refuelling stop during migration. The first time the conservation world heard anything about this promising change in Chinese policy was through two English- language news articles. Encouragingly, one of A 58 these was also posted on the website of the State Council, China’s ‘Cabinet’, implying that the policy would receive a high level of support from the Government. But what does the new policy actually entail? At a press conference hosted by the State Oceanic Administration (SOA), Lin Shanqing, Deputy Director, outlined several important elements. Firstly, the government would “nationalise reclaimed land with no structures built on it, and will halt reclamation projects that have yet to be opened and are against national policies”. But they don’t just plan to prevent future damage. They will also attempt to make good the mistakes of yesterday, birdlife • apr-jun 2018