Ecology camp has little impact

ENTHUSIASTIC applause filled the hall of South China Teachers' College in Guangzhou, marking the end of Green Hope Project, an environmental protection exchange programme between Hong Kong and Guangdong province.

Having heard the closing speeches, the nearly 120 senior secondary students from both places shook hands and left the camp.

However, for many of the Hong Kong students, it was a moment of mixed feelings - about the success of the whole endeavour. They wondered whether the environment message had been conveyed at all.

The scene in the empty hall seemed somehow symbolic. Despite all the talk about environmental protection, there were water bottles, cartons, soft drink cans and sundry litter strewn everywhere - hardly the venue in which to learn how to care for the environment.

The organisers said the five-day camp had boosted the participants' ''green'' knowledge.

''The camp is in its eighth year, and this was the biggest we've had, thanks to the support of Hong Kong's Friends of the Earth. We are looking forward to next year's event,'' said Mr Chen Guoqiang, deputy secretary of the Guangzhou Environmental Science Association.

Hong Kong student Liu Wai-yee was surprised to hear the programme had been running for that long, but regretted the campaign had still not taught participants ecology basics like not to leave litter lying around.

''The Guangzhou students and organisers had so much to say about environmental protection, but we would see them thoughtlessly throwing soft drink cans out of windows whenever we travelled by coach,'' she said.

Mr Yao Jiye, vice-president of the Guangzhou Education Bureau, said environmental protection topics had been taught in schools in China since the early '80s.

''Although we don't teach environment as a separate subject, we have games and visits to factories for kindergarten children, and include a few chapters on the topic in subjects like Biology and Geography in the primary and secondary curriculum,'' Mr Yaosaid.

A $100,000 environmental protection fund has been set up, and the annual interest of about $40,000 is used to hold ecology activities like seminars, essay competitions and study camps.

Despite the education, Professor Chen Chengzhang, a lecturer at Sun Yat Sen University's Medical School, said environmental protection awareness was low among students in China.

Mr Li Haiyun, vice president of the Foshan Environmental Protection Bureau, said rapid industrial development in the past decade had resulted in much pollution.

''We want to have a better living environment in Foshan, but it will take time. We have not had any city planning, and it takes time for our people to become environmentally alert.''