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Sub-anchor: Coral reefs' deterioration in S.China Sea alarming


06-04-2016 05:48 BJT

Joining us now is Han Bin. You’ve been to the South China Sea many times. How serious is the current situation in relation to the coral destruction? And there have been concerns that China’s reclamation work might harm the corals.

A1:  I’m not an expert, but from what I’ve learned, the deterioration of coral reefs is a global trend, due to various reasons. But the situation in the South China Sea is alarming. In some offshore atolls, coral cover has declined to as little as only one percent. And the problem continues, as competing claims by neighboring countries have impacted joint efforts for protection.

The coral reefs are among the most productive ecosystems supporting the balance and diversity of marine resources.

The islands and reefs in the South China Sea are in fact living corals. Damage to the atolls means not only the loss of these sources, but the eventual disappearance of the islands and reefs themselves.

Construction will inevitably damage coral reeds, but there are successful examples in the world that exploitation can go hand in hand with preservation.

The Chinese government realizes the urgency for coral protection. Officials say once China’s construction activities on certain islands are completed, ecological protection will be notably enhanced. But coral recuperation is a long term process, that’s why a lot of attention should be paid to protecting them now.

Q2. China is planning to gradually encourage tourism in the South China Sea. But does the plan take coral protection into consideration?

A2: Well, tourism in the South China Sea will become a natural choice for the government and business companies. China started very late when compared with its neighbors. It only began testing a few routes on restricted islands in the Xishas, also known as the Paracels, over which China believes there’s no dispute.

The South China Sea is so vast and beautiful. Numerous islands and reefs enjoy untouched natural scenery. Tourism will eventually become one pillar for the local economy. Plus, there is the symbolic meaning for claiming sovereignty. However, the eco-system is also vulnerable. Living corals depend on a chain of systems, involving fish, snails, and the quality of water. Tourism will bring about construction and pollution, which could kill the corals.

As Sansha Mayor Xiao Jie says, tourism in the South China Sea will not be developed so fast as to create an added burden for the islands ecology. The concept of environmental protection should be deeply embedded into people’s minds. This will be a guiding principle for tourism there. A major challenge for the government is to find the right balance.

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