The Guardian just reported on the Pantanal, a large swathe of mostly Brazilian wetlands. The author stated “The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland territory. Located mostly in Brazil but also covering Bolivia and Paraguay, the wetlands cover an area of 170,500 sq km – equivalent to the combined size of Belgium, Holland, Portugal and Switzerland. “
But did the author do the maths? Let’s check.
Portugal = 92,010 sq km
Holland = 41,850 sq km
Switzerland = 41,284 sq km
Total so far = 175,144, greater than the 170,000 claimed by the author for the Pantanl.
So where does Belgium fit in to this equation?
The NWT Chamber of Commerce has written a letter to the territory’s environment minister asking him to shelf the proposed Thaidene Nene park around the eastern arm of Great Slave Lake.
Thaidene Nene — originally proposed in the 1970s — covers almost 30,000 square kilometres of pristine waterways, forests and Canadian Shield near the community of Lutselk’e.
“It appears inconceivable to the business community that the GNWT would be a willing partner in such a reckless annexation of potentially productive land,” wrote Richard Morland, president of the NWT Chamber of Commerce.
“You will therefore understand our alarm when we contemplate the annexation of a land area the size of Belgium, contained within the proposed Thaidene Nene [park].”
In news articles today, the Financial Times correctly measured Lebanon …
“these technologies could ease hardships endured by refugees in Lebanon, a country one-third the size of Belgium hosting well over 1m displaced Syrians”
while the Indian Express was way off the mark in measuring the Wa State in Myanmar…
“The United Wa State Army (UWSA) boasts some 30,000 soldiers who control a secretive, China-dominated statelet the size of Belgium in the remote hills on Myanmar’s eastern border.”
At 17,000 sq km, is only slightly more than half the size of Belgium.
The Washington Times carelessly compared Belgium with a nuclear testing site in Kazahkstan.
“The movement influenced the authorities to stop the testing in 1989 and two years later the Semipalatinsk testing site, a vast region the size of Belgium, was closed.”
This is a miss by some 40%. A Wikipedia entry describes the testing site to be 18,000 sq km whereas frequent readers of this blog will know that Belgium covers 30,000 sq km.
Two more forests the size of Belgium have made the news this week.
Firstly UNESCO has recommended a tract of Canadian forest as a World Heritage site. It was reported by the Globe and Mail newspaper.
“The Pimachiowin Aki, 33,400 square kilometres of mostly untouched wilderness (about the size of Belgium), is home to one of the largest herds of woodland caribou south of Hudson Bay as well as many other species of animals, birds, insects and fish.”
And the largest private forest owner in Europe (a company called SCA) uses an area the size of Belgium to make personal hygiene products. This was reported by CNBC.
One of the additional gems for SCA is that it owns 2.6 million hectares of forest land, equivalent to the size of Belgium, making it the largest “private forest owner in Europe.“
The Beachcomber column in the Daily Express today …
“The standard unit of area is, in any case, “An area the size of Wales,” or, if you use metric units, “An area the size of Belgium,” with three Waleses roughly equal to two Belgiums.”
There has been a burst of forest-related references to Belgium recently.
The Vancouver sun reports on the historic forest fire of 1919.
“In 1919, the biggest forest fire in recorded Canadian history swept through Alberta’s boreal forest just south of where Fort McMurray now suffers. That fire burned through 30,000-square-kilometres of timber and razed Lac La Biche, the town now providing safe haven for evacuees from the north.
The fire began near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. It blackened an area the size of Belgium.”
The New Zealand Listener reports on how much forest would be needed to evaporate a lot of milk.
“Robert Spurway, Fonterra’s managing director global operations, says the company wants to “transition away from coal” and is trialling renewables such as miscanthus – a tall grass with high biomass properties – geothermal, wind, solar, biogas and wood biomass. But he says there are “no viable alternatives” to coal in the South Island at present. The sheer volume of energy needed to dry milk into powder is such that shifting from coal to wood in its South Island plants would require “an area the size of Belgium” – about three million hectares – to be planted in trees, he claims.”
Finally the Earth Touch News Network seems out of touch with the true size of Minkébé National Park, even though they included a link to the Wikipedia article about it in their report.
“Minkébé National Park in northern Gabon has been of particular focus in recent years. An area the size of Belgium, it was once home to tens of thousands of forest elephants, and still contains a large proportion of Gabon’s total population.”
In fact it is only one quarter the size of Belgium. The publication has repeated the error in a 2015 BBC article (mentioned on the Bloopers page of this blog). There is however an interesting video of an elephant charging the camera in the article.
Academic website The Conversation has a report on the Australian local government councils.
“The 565 councils in Australia range greatly in size. The largest, Brisbane City Council in Queensland, has an annual operating budget of A$2.9 billion and serves a community of just over a million people. It covers an area of 133,809 hectares.
The smallest, Sandstone Shire Council in Western Australia, comprises a population of 116 and covers a land area of 3,266,650 ha. This is comparable to the size of Belgium. It had an annual operating budget in 2014 of $3.4 million.”
Donald Trump’s comments about China’s island-building in the South China Sea attracted some analysis by the US-based fact-checking site Politifact. The article mentions the province of Hainan.
“Hainan Island, which is roughly the size of Belgium, is not one of the contested territories.”
Hainan at 12,822 square miles is close to the size of Belgium (11,787) but a more accurate measure would be Moldova at 13,068 square miles.
We rate Politifact’s claim to be “Mostly True”.
The Guardian reports today that
“Ecuador creates Galápagos marine sanctuary to protect sharks. Belgium-sized area around northern islands of Darwin and Wolf will be off-limits for fishing in bid to conserve sharks and unique habitat.
Some 15,000 square miles (38,000 sq km) of the waters around Darwin and Wolf – the most northern islands – will be made off limits to all fishing to conserve the sharks that congregate there and the ecosystem on which they rely.”
38,000 sq km is in fact the size of Bhutan, not Belgium (30,000 sq km) but it is easy to confuse the low-lying EU country with the mountainous Himalayan kingdom.