Guangdong's dirty seas put HK at risk

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 May, 2007, 12:00am

Coastal waters turned into huge rubbish dump, says report

Guangdong's coastal waters have been turned into a huge rubbish dump, with massive amounts of pollution being discharged into the sea, according to an official report.

Feng Weizhong , a senior engineer with the State Oceanic Administration's South China Sea Marine Prediction Centre, said Hong Kong was badly affected by pollution carried by currents from Guangdong.

The Nanfang Daily reported at the weekend that 12.62 billion tonnes of 'polluted materials' and 8.3 billion tonnes of waste water were discharged into the waters off Guangdong last year, up 60 per cent from five years ago.

The '2006 Guangdong Sea Environment Quality Report' said offshore pollution had worsened in recent years and the ecological damage in the Pearl River Estuary was irreparable in the short term.

Li Zhujiang , director of the Guangdong Provincial Oceanic and Fishery Administration, which issued the report, asked for more investment and said Guangdong should implement its own policies - tougher than national ones - to cut back on pollution.

The report, which looked at data from 75 water quality stations in 13 cities, said the most polluted offshore areas were at Shantou , Zhanjiang and the Pearl River estuary, which includes Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Dongguan, Zhongshan and Zhuhai .

Water quality off Shantou, Zhanjiang's port and the Pearl River mouth was rated grade four, suitable only for industrial use. Under the mainland's five-tier rating system, water graded one to three is deemed suitable for human consumption.

Of Guangdong's 112 sewage outlets, 84 discharged waste that exceeded standards, endangering marine life. Mr Feng blamed the problem on poor oversight of small and medium-sized cities, towns and villages. While sewerage projects might be effective in urban areas of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, in rural areas, huge amounts of pollution and sewage were discharged directly into rivers.

The report said inorganic nitrogen, reactive phosphate and oil were the main pollutants, while heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, copper and mercury were also widely found.

Mr Feng said most of the pollutants came from household waste and normal production activities.

He said Hong Kong's location left it vulnerable to Guangdong's pollution. In winter, the coastal current swept from Daya Bay past Hong Kong and into the Pearl River mouth, while in summer, it flowed from the Pearl River mouth past Hong Kong to eastern Guangdong.

'If we say that Guangdong's offshore is very polluted, this also affects Hong Kong very badly because the pollutants are trapped in this area with nowhere to go,' he said.

Hong Kong has been tackling locally produced pollution with a multibillion-dollar sewage-treatment scheme, the first phase of which went into operation in 2001 on Stonecutters Island. But environmentalists have called for the speedy implementation of the second phase of the scheme, which has improved the water quality in some areas of Hong Kong but worsened it in others.

The oceanic administration admitted in a statement to the Guangdong government that sea pollution did not receive as much attention as river pollution - government spending on sea pollution was only 10 per cent of that on rivers.

But Mr Feng recognised the need to clean up rivers. 'There is no way to deal with the sea if the land sources [of pollution] cannot be controlled.'