Shanghai has announced plans to build a 60 million yuan (HK$68.2 million) education and research centre to protect an island wetland reserve known as the city's 'last virgin soil'. Jiuduansha Wetland Nature Reserve covers 42,000 hectares, 12km directly offshore from Pudong International Airport. Pudong New District plans to build the centre in the culture and tourism zone at Sanjiagang port, adjacent to the airport. It will provide visitor information and facilities for researchers studying the region. Local authorities did not say when it would be completed. No one at the nature reserve's office was available for comment yesterday. However, a press release posted on the Pudong district's website quoted the office's director, Sun Ying, as saying the new centre would be 'a great source for locals to get to know the wetland ... It will not harm the wetland environment'. Jiuduansha only emerged from beneath the waters of the Yangtze Delta in the 1960s. The four shoals of mostly tidal and seasonal flats were formed by alluvial silt collecting at the point where the Yangtze River meets the East China Sea. The area has become a haven for migrating birds. Jiuduansha is considered to play a role in controlling seasonal flooding and reducing water pollution.