Wednesday, July 4, 2007
As I mentioned in our last email out, I have been working with Birds Korea on a project (Saemangeum Shorebird Monitoring Program) that aims at assessing the damage of the Saemangeum reclamation project on migratory shorebirds. Through it, the true importance of this site for humans, birds, fish and benthos (the organisms that live in the tidal mud) has come to the fore. The 33 km-long wall has been closed now for over a year, with only two 500 m-long sluice gates opening and closing, allowing fresh water to come in, and stagnant water to leave. The difference between last year's bird counts before and just after the wall was completed and this year's counts was stunning. The drop, as we expected, was huge. The Great Knot, pictured above, dropped from a peak count of 88,000 birds in 2006 to just over 3,000 birds in 2007. You read that correctly - a 96% decline by the very next spring migration!
This picture below was taken this May, inside the wall - that dry mud may never see salt water again, and the organisms in it, the birds and 25,000 humans whose jobs were lost due to the ongoing reclamation, are all adversely affected by this crime, which in itself breaks international treaties, such as Ramsar, which South Korea has signed. However, there is something we can do to reverse this situation . . .
An email campaign has started, found at this site:
where you can go, click on your home country and by simply typing your name, email address and home city, you can send a pre-written letter to your country's South Korean ambassador, urging him to keep the two sluice gates open at all times, thereby allowing life-giving tides to rush back in to this dying ecosystem the size of Singapore, and hopefully restoring some of what has been already lost. We also want to protect neighbouring Geum Estuary, now the number one site for migrating shorebirds in the Yellow Sea.