Land Reclamation and Land Restoration are two terms that are often used interchangeably.. There are however, two very separate and distinct practices no matter which word is used to describe them. One of these ideas was discussed in a previous article and the other will be clarified here. Again, it is important to remember that just because something can be done, does not necessarily mean that it should be done. Where these programs are implemented, careful consideration must be given to all of the relevant factors before any work begins. There is an old adage about even “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry!” No matter how well anything is planned, there is always the possibility that there will be unintended consequences. In terms of the environment, the ramifications of a failure could very well lead to irreplaceable damage. Still, the processes do have a great many merits as well. The real questions are, what is it, what does it mean and exactly when should it be used.
In the other case that was examined, land reclamation was seen as the process by which oceans, bays or seas were filled in and the land-space recovered. In this case, the process is a bit more involved but substantially less harmful to the environment ... potentially at least. There is a lot of land that will never be truly viable for any kind of development whatsoever. These generally include the face of a cliff, the valleys inside of an active volcano, rock faces, alkali flats and other similar areas that are equally inaccessible or inhospitable. There are numerous other locations however, that, while not ideal, will support life with a little bit of help. These include areas such as deserts, salt marshes and other such areas that do have solid ground and soils but may otherwise be seemingly unmanageable.
There are two particular efforts currently underway that are of particular interest and uniquely qualified to be noted here in this article. The first one is in regards to efforts to reclaim lands that have been taken over by the desert. This is especially relevant given the current efforts in China to prevent the vast swathe of desert that essentially comprises the whole of Central China from consuming entire cities as it expands. Within a space of roughly three years, utilizing nothing but natural techniques and methods and without utilizing any chemical or otherwise toxic matter, some two hundred hectares of desert in the middle of the Australian Outback had over forty centimeters of viable agricultural soil. For those that may not be overly familiar with agricultural pursuits, that is more than enough to begin farming.
Another effort currently underway is in regards to reclaiming saltwater marshes and shorelines that have soil, but are also awash in salts and other mineral deposits that prevent these lands from being utilized for productive means. This effort is designed, planned and implemented in order to increase the agricultural production of an island location. Surrounded as it is by the ocean, much of the land was previously unsuitable for farming, but these efforts have proven successful in rectifying that situation. On the surface, both of these projects are seemingly a resounding success in every sense of the word, but the law of unintended consequences should never be discounted, even after all of the planning is done and the projects are well under way. For the most part, these experiments and programs have been very successful in what they were intended to accomplish. In these particular cases, all of the results have been positive to date ... but things do not always work out the way that people want them to either.
In one case of restoration gone wrong, efforts were being undertaken to restore an ancient Mangrove Swamp. The Mangroves happened to blend into an ancient Cypress Swamp and in the end, both ancient habitats were destroyed. Despite the best of intentions, the management was lacking and not all of the contingencies had been planned for. In another case closer to home, the reforestation projects in Quezon Province are another example of good intentions gone bad. At the time, the efforts were focused on the reduction of erosion and the reforestation and replenishment of the forests that had been harvested without any real management in place. The tree that was used was called at the time, Sa Cahoy Ng Buhay or the Tree of Life. It does indeed have some very amazing properties ... not the least impressive of which is the rapid rate of growth. Unfortunately, without proper management or oversight, these trees that can be very beneficial, were planted and left to take over entire ecosystems.
While the two “good examples” noted herein were by all respects successful, this does not necessarily mean that they were beneficial. Both salt marshes and the deserts play an important role in the global environment and their local ecosystems. In places like China where deserts are encroaching on and even over running cities, the restoration of this land may be not only beneficial, but necessary for the benefit of the people living there. In the case of the salt marshes, again, given the restricted ability of the locals to provide enough food for their own security seemed to merit these efforts. Still, very little is actually known about how these areas impact the global environment as a whole.