It hasn’t received a lot of publicity, but there’s a huge relocation of all species of wildlife from a part of the Thames estuary near London. Tens of thousands of birds, newts, voles, snakes are being trapped and moved to new habitats, all to make way for a giant new container port.

Nothing on this scale has been attempted anywhere in the world, and so the question is, will it work? That, of course, remains to be seen.

The economic argument is that the project, known as London Gateway, is being funded by DP, previously known as Dubai Port (note the resemblance to the former British Petroleum becoming the more anonymous BP), and will provide a much-needed economic boost. And it’s being built on derelict land that nature has gradually reclaimed.

To answer the environmental concerns, DP is footing the bill to give each creature a new home. It could be worse. They could probably have gotten the go-ahead for the project without that. After all, they’re dangling thousands of jobs and billions in revenue in an area that sorely needs both. What’ a few newts here and there?

Apart from the principle of the thing, relocating some wildlife to man-made habitats has a poor track record. Then there are those that are being relocated to existing wildlife sanctuaries and conservation areas. Upsetting the existing ecological balance doesn’t seem like an exceptionally good idea either.

What worries me is what kind of precedent is being set? Here in Massachusetts we already have a few dubious practices that “legitimize” a developer’s disruption of habitats. Setting aside green buffers, some-small scale relocations, even modest donations to the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program can smooth the way for a major development.

Do we want to open the door to large-scale relocations every time some developer shows up with a grandiose plan? I don’t think so.

There’s an article the UK’s paper The Independent has more info on the Thames project. You should be able to link from here.