Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Environmental Impact of Creating an Island in South China Sea

By Matthew Salerno

For my assignment this week, I chose to look at an article I viewed on the front page of the New York Times. The article is about how China over the past few months has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea along Mischief Reef, less than 200 miles from the Philippines.

While the article took more of a diplomatic view on the topic, I saw this as an environmental topic. Since January, China has been using heavy machinery and moving around hundreds of tons of sand in the submerged reef along the Spratly Islands. While the New York Times article talks mainly about border issues and political topics between China, the Philippines and the United States, I believe that news organizations should be looking into the environmental impacts of what China is doing to marine life at such an important reef.

I did some digging on the Internet to try and find an article that views this subject from an environmental point of view and was able to find a few articles on the website for The Institute for Maritime and Ocean Affairs. The Institute has written several articles on the status of the reef and has noted that the Chinese Government has deposited over 200,000 tons of fish into the area to try and make up for the displaced population.

Although from my research, it seems that China has made it look like they care about the environment, the effect on the environment will be too great in the long run to just fix by dumping fish into the area. Another article from the Institute details how more than four other islands besides Mischief Reef have been artificially created by China over the last year for primarily military use.

The amount of sand from the ocean that China is moving artificially must be having a great impact on the marine environment in the South China Sea. All the marine life in the area has been displaced from a reef that supported such a complex ecosystem, thus affecting the surrounding area. No doubt much of the fish population in the area has either died or moved, which might make other areas overpopulated.

Another environmental issue with the island is the contents that lay below the seabed. According to the New York Times article and several online articles, it is rumored that a large amount of oil and natural gas lays beneath Mischief Reef, making it quite lucrative for the Chinese Government. Besides the initial impact of artificially creating land, the fracking and mining of the oil below what was once a natural reef would destroy the environment of a once beautiful reef.

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