In the past half century, China had already lost 53% of its temperate coastal wetlands, 73% of its mangrove forest and 80% of its coral reef. In recent ten years, coastal wetlands are disappearing at a rate significantly higher than that of other kinds of wetlands in China. According to the results of the first and second national wetland resource survey: in the ten years from 2003 to 2013, the area of inshore and coastal wetlands in China is reduced by 1.3612 Million hectares and the decrement rate is 22.91%, which is the fastest among all kinds of wetlands (the average decrement rate of wetland throughout the country was 8.82%). Among them, reclamation and seal filling are the immediate causes for the disappearance of coastal wetlands.
Distribution area of Dongtai Wetland in Jiangsu and Reclamation Drawn by Liu Yu
Sea reclamation engineering in progress photo taken by Yu Xiubo
From 1950 to 2000, half of coastal land throughout the country disappeared due to reclamation and seal filling.
From 2006 to 2010, in order to satisfy accelerated urbanization in coastal areas and the needs of economic construction for building industrial zone, port and other infrastructure, there were nearly 40,000 hectares of coastal wetlands reclaimed in each year (Ma, 2014). According to the monitoring data from the Institute of remote Sensing and Digital Earth, Chinese Academy of Sciences, the area of coastal wetlands in China had decreased by 232,000 hectares from 1990 to 2000. Although the area of coastal wetlands accounts for 10.85% of the total area of wetlands in China, the decrement amount of wetlands accounted for 16% of national decrement. In the amount of decrement, the decrement of the area of shoal and sea beach in intertidal zone is the most prominent, reaching 135,800 hectares (Gong Peng, et al. 2010). The analysis of the spatiotemporal dynamics of sea reclamation in coastal prefecture-level cities in 2000-2010 conducted in this project indicate that, in order to satisfy the requirements of accelerated urbanization and economic construction for building industrial zone, port and other infrastructure, the area of reclaimed coastal wetlands exceeded 320,000 hectares; in the same period, over 100,000 hectares of constructed wetlands were further reclaimed as industrial and mining area, cities and towns and arable lands. From 1990 to 2010, the length of coastline with sea wall was increased by 3.4 times, reaching 11,000km in 2010, accounting for 61% of the 18,000km total length of coastline in China, while the figure was only 18% twenty years ago (Ma, et al. 2015).
Sea reclamation leads to the gradual shrink of water bird habitat photo taken by Yu Xiubo
According to information, the scale of sea reclamation in the future will be larger.
According to incomplete statistics, with the implementation of the new round of coastal development strategy, there will be a need for over 579,000 hectares of sea reclamation in order to satisfy the development of coastal areas in 2020. As of October 2012, the State Council had successively approved the marine function zoning for 11 coastal provinces. According to planning, the approved index for sea reclamation for construction will reach 246,900 hectares by 2020. If not restrained, this trend of large-area reclamation will break the red line of the conservation of 800 Million Mu wetlands before 2018.
Sea reclamation are making the water birds homeless photo taken by Han Yongxiang
Information of latest policies
On July 6, 2018, Li Chunliang, Deputy Director of National Forestry and Grassland Administration, pointed out on “Eco Forum Global Guiyang 2018 Annual Meeting”: “Currently, the area of wetland in China is 804 Million Mu, ranking number one in Asia and the fourth in the world. There are 57 international important wetlands, 602 wetland nature reserves, 898 national wetland parks, 4220 kinds of wetland plants and 2313 kinds of animals in wetland ecosystem, and the protection ratio of wetland reaches 49.03%”. In the next steps, we are going to take the conservation and restoration of wetland as an important point of strength for ecological civilization construction and take high-quality wetland ecosystem as an important symbol of beautiful China. By the year 2020, we will strive to have no less than 800 Million mus of wetlands, 50% protection ratio of wetland; by the year 2035, the quality of wetland ecosystem will be improved significantly.
On July 14, 2018, the State Council printed and distributed Notification on Strengthening Coastal Wetland Conservation and Strict Control of Sea Reclamation and demanded “strictly control newly increased sea reclamation for land”, “accelerate processing historical problems of seal reclamation”, “strengthen the conservation and restoration of marine ecology”, and “establish long-term management and control mechanism for coastal wetland conservation and sea reclamation”. The strictest conservation and supervision will implemented the designated red line of marine ecological conservation and the sea reclamation projects that illegally occupy red line areas will be completely removed, so as to ensure that the area of marine ecological conservation red line will not be reduced, the retention rate of natural coastline of the continent will not decrease, and the length of existing sandy coast of sea islands will not be shortened.
Rapid and large-scale sea reclamation is the main cause for the sharp decline of the area of coastal wetland; the huge sea reclamation plan in the future will break the red line of 800 Million mu of wetland conservation. We are in urgent need for effective measures to resolutely restraint the overdevelopment of coastal wetland.
In allusion to rapid and large scale sea reclamation, Blueprint of Coastal Wetland Conservation and Management in China proposed the following suggestions: Strengthen national-level legislation for wetland, modify and improve the part related to coastal wetland conservation in existing laws, strengthen law enforcement work and responsibility claiming work and establish effective coordination management mechanism; determine the legal definition of wetland as soon as possible, promote national wetland legislation including coastal wetland, promulgate Wetland Protection Act of the People’s Republic of China as soon as possible, and provide strong legal basis for wetland conservation.
Formulate unified national land development and protection planning for eastern coastal areas under the leadership of the government; implement unified ecological red line in 11 coastal provinces (cities, autonomous regions), explicitly bring national nature reserves, provincial nature reserves, national special marine protection areas and the coastal wetlands confirmed in this research project (not listed in any kind of protected area, but possess vital ecological functions) into the category of ecological red line, and practically implement protective measures. Conduct “integration of multiple rules” in coastal counties (cities) with larger area of wetland, bring wetland conservation into city and county level production, living and ecological space planning, and provide replicable and promotable experience for the implementation of “integration of multiple rules” throughout the country. Coordinate the relationship between coastal wetland conservation and sea reclamation in costal wetland and prioritize the conservation of coastal wetland. Opinions on Accelerating the Ecological Civilization Construction by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council explicitly requires “implementing strict control system for the total area of sea reclamation and natural coastline and establishing the restoration and repair mechanism for marine ecological environment with integration of sea and land and regional linkage”. Conduct post-project evaluation for the already completed sea reclamation projects and scientifically analyze their advantages and disadvantages in economic, ecological and ecological civilization construction, so as to provide theoretical support for next economic planning; reevaluate the already approved coastal wetland reclamation plans, strictly restrain the approval of new intertidal zone reclamation projects, conduct ecological restoration on the already reclaimed but not developed coastal wetlands and make them appropriate habitats for water birds and other wild animals; before formulating unified national land space development and protection planning for eastern coastal areas, suspend the approval and construction of all sea reclamation projects.
Part of the suggestions conforms to the policies in Notification on Strengthening Coastal Wetland Conservation and Strict Control of Sea Reclamation released by the State Council.