Development Threat to Hong Kong Bird Haven

A three thousand hectare strip located between the two metros Hong Kong and Shenzhen is the sanctuary to over one hundred thousand birds every year. Hailing from as far off as Arctic Siberia, a large variety of birds ranging from endangered and even rare species fly to these marshes during winter to fatten up or get some rest, while on their way to Australia and New Zealand.

This marshy strip, located on the ‘East Asian-Australasian flyway’ according to conservationists is one of the world’s major migratory routes and is currently in danger as construction companies as well as the government seems to be eyeing this prime spot of land for developmental purposes.

The marshy land also consisting of mangrove swamps and inter-tidal mudflats also has fish and shrimp ponds stretching alongside the Shenzhen River. Only half the area falls under the Mai Po and Inner Deep Bay nature reserve, which comes under the protection of the Ramsar convention, an international treaty.

Billy Hau, a Hong Kong university ecology professor says that the area makes up a continuous habitat and that if any single part of it goes, the entire system will break up.
Birdlife International, a conservation group stated that around ten species of globally endangered birds visit this wetland, such as the black-faced spoonbill, Dalmatian pelicans and imperial eagles.

The unprotected area of the wetland zone is located in the Frontier Closed Area established by the British in the 1950s as a barrier against illegal immigrants. This not only ensured that development did not happen in the area, but also kept the area detached, which worked out well for the birds.

Currently, the government is in the midst of carrying out a study with ARUP, a global engineering firm towards creating what they call a ‘combined conservation, eco-tourism and cross-boundary development zone’ in the wetlands.