China is creating a ‘great wall of sand’ in the South China Sea, according to the Daily Mail.
The latest huge land mass is four square kilometres in size and was created by dumping sand on live coral reefs, damaging local ecosystems.
But this is just one of several artificial islands China has been creating in the region – and the exact purpose of them is unknown.
The large expanses of sand and concrete – the latest being Johnson Reef – are being built among the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.
China is creating the area by using dredging vessels to dig up sediment from the sea, and then dumping it on subermeged coral reefs to make islands.
China has supposedly been carrying out the land reclamation in order to build airstrips and other structures in the region.
Five islands in total have been built in this way, and two more are in development.
Richard Dodge of the Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center, said: ‘The activities described would appear to clearly both be greatly exceeding corals and coral reefs’ ability to cope and survive the excess sediments and turbidity.’
He said that as the reefs were being covered by cement and landfill, this constituted ‘outright destruction’ of the buried coral reefs and associated habitats.
‘Coral reefs are extremely globally and locally valuable both for the biodiversity and ecosystem they create but also for the tremendous services they provide in terms of food supply, cultural heritage, erosion prevention, recreation, tourism, and habitat for myriad other organisms,’ he continued.
‘Coral reefs worldwide are under extreme threat from changing climate and from local sources of land based pollution, over fishing, and coastal construction.
‘The activities described would appear to represent an additional and severe threat to coral reef ecosystem health and sustainability.’
Robert Nicholls, a Professor of Coastal Engineering at the University of Southampton, added: ‘It is clearly destroying [coral reefs] at the local scale of the land claim and the environment.
‘In the bigger scheme of things it is harder to be precise as these are small areas in a large area of reef.’
China is creating land by pumping sand on to live coral reefs – some of them submerged – and paving over them with concrete. It has now created over 4 square kilometers of artificial landmass.
The region is known for its beautiful natural islands, but ‘in sharp contrast, these actions are are creating a great wall of sand with dredges and bulldozers over the course of months.