email just received via Oriental Bird Club:
For all of us concerned with the future survival of some of East Asia's most wonderful shorebirds, like Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Nordmann's Greenshank and Great Knot, some (more) terrible news today, March 16.
The Supreme Court in South Korea has ruled that the Saemangeum reclamation project is not illegal per se, allowing the government here to continue building a seawall that will permanently close off 40 100 ha of tidal-flats and sea shallows from the sea. Although 2 of the 13 judges declared that the project is based on a seriously flawed EIS, that it has costs that will need to be borne by future generations, and that it should be cancelled, the Supreme Court as a body fell short of demanding the project be cancelled.
The decision for restarting or cancelling the project falls again then to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the government as a whole. The Min. of Ag. is the one responsible for claims that tidal-flat reclamation is good for birds, even while pushing reclamation AND hanging banners around wetlands nationwide warning people to avoid the dangerous wild birds that come carrying the Bird Flu. The government as a whole too has always put economic and infrastructrual development (as in building things) over wise use and conservation of natural resources. It would be remarkable if they now showed the necessary vision to state that they would indeed prefer to conserve the tidal-flats, rather than create land that might eventually be used, as has been proposed, to build the world's biggest golf-course complex.
Based on developer's claims, the 33 km long seall (itself built from quote rocks of a 100 mountains unquote) will be completed at the end of April this year, in time to choke the tidal-flats (and the several hundred thousand shorebirds they support on migration) this Spring. After that time, discussion will be held on how to use any land created.
Domestic protests have flared in recent weeks, with hunger strikes, sit-ins, and public condemnation of the project - even by one the nation's leading and most influential intellectuals. They will continue - not just for weeks, but for the years ahead.
The impacts on migratory shorebirds are also expected to be enormous and long-term - and they will be monitored. The site is famous for holding concentrations of 175+ Spoon-billed Sandpiper and 60 Nordmann's Greenshank, and even without allowing for turnover, likely holds close to 30% of the world's Great Knot.
The Australasian Wader Studies Group and Birds Korea will therefore conduct a shorebird monitoring program at the site and in adjacent areas, to gather data on shorebirds and their habitats with a rigid methodology. Approximately 12 international researchers will join domestic counters to carry out the work, starting on March 31st, and continuing on until the end of May.
We are still looking for support: be it financial, technical, or PR, for this year and for next. We need to do all that we can to use the Saemangeum reclamation to demonstrate the unacceptable costs of large-scale tidal-flat reclamation, not only here in South Korea (host of the 2008 Ramsar Convention on wise use of wetlands) but where-ever it happens, be it the vital tidal-flat systems in Bangladesh and Inner Gulf Of Thailand, or those of the Yellow Sea, or of Japan , Taiwan, and the Philippines, of Sakhalin and the Siberian coast. All such areas are vital; all have been or are still threatened, and in every case the developer has always claimed that impacts will be small, that the birds will move somewhere else, that the development will be friendly to the environment...
At the cost of one of the most important shorebird sites in Asia, we all need to have an argument to prove them wrong.
Nial Moores Birds Korea
Birds Korea: The national and international network dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats.