Over-development Strips Hainan Island of Critical Protective Forests

Press release - 2010-09-17
Excessive tourism and real estate development is severely damaging Hainan’s coastal forests, which serve as a vital natural defense against typhoons and tsunamis. Greenpeace strongly urges the Hainan provincial government to immediately halt all coastal forest destruction by construction projects and strengthen oversight to ensure the sustainable development of Hainan, an island known for its tourism appeal.

At this construction site on the Shenzhou Peninsula, Wanning, there is hardly any trace of the coastal forest of Australian pines (木麻黄) remaining on the beach.

Excessive tourism and real estate development is severely damaging Hainan's coastal forests, which serve as a vital natural defense against typhoons and tsunamis. Greenpeace strongly urges the Hainan provincial government to immediately halt all coastal forest destruction by construction projects and strengthen oversight to ensure the sustainable development of Hainan, an island known for its tourism appeal.

Greenpeace forest campaigner Yi Lan noted, "Hainan is situated in the tropics and experiences an annual typhoon season. It's unthinkable that we should tear down the best defense that nature has given us against coastal erosion, hurricanes and tsunamis. Disasters like the mudslide in Zhouqu have already given us ample warning that tragedy can occur when development progresses without concern for ecological balance. Hainan will be left extremely vulnerable should another tsunami like the one in 2004 hits."

At this tourism development on the Shenzhou Peninsula, Wanning, Hainan, the coastal forest of Australian pines has already been cut down and replaced with palm trees. In the foreground is a highway, part of which has collapsed already, built to serve the tourism zone.

Greenpeace found that tourism and real estate companies are the biggest culprits in coastal deforestation. In Sanya, the international hotel group Starwood is encroaching upon a highly important mangrove preserve. In 2009, the area of the Qingmeigang Mangroves Natural Preserve was reduced from 155.6 hectares to just 92.6 hectares. These hectares have been destroyed to make way for the Yalong Bay St. Regis Hotel. "Such land use is a direct violation of the National Forest Protection and Utilization Plan that the State Council recently passed. The blame must be shared by the real estate developers and those who neglected, or even encouraged, such destruction," Yi Lan said.

A 2005 image of Qingmeigang Bay, Yalong, Hainan, compared with the same image in 2008

On the Shenzhou peninsula in Wanning, the CITIC Group is building golf courses, hotels and high-end apartments, uprooting the natural forest of Australian pines (Casuarina equisetifolia) for the more iconic but less defensive coconut palm. In Shimei Bay, Wanning, Hong Kong China Resources Company is developing a 12-sq-km tourism zone right next to the conservation area for China's only coastal forest of Vatica mangachapoi, an endangered tropical tree. To serve the project, a 2.4 km-long road has been built through the conservation, damaging the conservation's Vatica mangachapoi and Australian pines.

"The national government has greatly restricted the use of forestland, but we have seen over and over again that development projects are flouting these rules," said Yi Lan. Greenpeace strongly urges the Hainan government to immediately end all coastal deforestation and strictly control the approval of real estate developments.

In Longmu Bay, Ledong, the Longmuwan (龙沐湾) International Tourism and Vacation Area bought their land from the Foluo Forest Reserve. A worker said, "The land here was bought for RMB 5000 per mu. They didn't want the trees by the coast, so they cut them all done, destroyed, all of it."


Yi Lan warned: "Land development with only an eye for short-term profits will inevitably lead to greater losses in the future, as the island - and all its infrastructure - are left exposed to storms. Without oversight and scientific guidance, Hainan will be pushed onto a path leading to an unsustainable future."

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