Shenzhen plan seen as boost for wetlands

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 September, 2011, 12:00am


Conservationists are welcoming a plan to upgrade a bird haven in Shenzhen's Futian National Nature Reserve into a wetland of international importance on a par with Hong Kong's Mai Po reserve.

The sprawling 300-hectare reserve in Deep Bay might be enlarged as authorities in Guangdong prepare to apply for an international listing. The Shenzhen reserve lies opposite the Mai Po reserve.

Conservationists hope the move will put an end to seemingly endless reclamation across the border, which has eroded the wetlands, and stimulate further environmental improvements such as water quality.

The plan was disclosed yesterday in a public consultation document titled 'Regional Co-operation Plan on Building a Quality Living Area' released by the Environmental Protection Department.

The aim is to transform the Pearl River Delta - Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau - into a low-carbon, low-pollution and high-technology quality living zone.

Goals include nature conservation, cultural co-operation and green transport.

Bena Smith, a Mai Po nature reserve manager, said the document was by far the clearest indication yet from mainland authorities that the status of the reserve would be upgraded.

'With the international status, there will be more government funding, more research and surveys and most importantly, better law enforcement,' he said.

Smith said if the wetland's designation becomes a reality, it would benefit Mai Po, which also faces threats of water pollution and reclamation projects at Inner Deep Bay.

'So much wetland has been lost to reclamation over the past years and there are fears that reclamation will not stop but continue,' Smith said, adding that he hoped the mainland's move would push the Hong Kong government to consider expanding its existing reserve boundary to include areas currently not protected.

Under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance - also known as the Ramsar Convention, on being signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971 - parties are committed to maintain the ecological character of a wetland of international importance and to plan for its sustainable use.

There are now 1,951 designated Ramsar sites around the world. Apart from Mai Po, which was listed in September 1995, there is one in Haifeng in Guangdong.

Apart from wetlands, the paper has also called for a joint management plan for Chinese white dolphin conservation in the Pearl River estuary.

A joint research centre on dolphins could also be set up by Guangdong and Hong Kong, which could also undertake studies to assess the impact development projects have on the mammals.

On turning the region into a low carbon economy, the document says the three places could actively explore and facilitate the establishment of a carbon trading market, and the associated standards, technical process and trading mechanisms in the region.

However, despite all the suggestions for co-operation, the document highlights socio-political differences between the three places and acknowledges that this will have to be taken into account when drawing up plans.

The consultation will last three months until the end of November.


The size in hectares of the Mai Po reserve, which lies opposite Shenzhen's Futian National Nature Reserve