Guangdong's multi-billion dollar plans to clean up the Pearl River might be ineffective in improving the quality of drinking water and sea water unless sufficient funding is secured, experts say. The Guangdong authorities announced last week that it would spend about $44.5 billion on waste water treatment and other anti-pollution projects to clean up the river and its tributaries. The authorities hope that at least 60 per cent of the two billion tonnes of sewage discharged each year into the Pearl River will be treated. The size of the problem has been highlighted by environment minister Sarah Liao Sau-tung's warning that the Pearl River Delta might suffer from a fresh water shortage within 10 years if nothing is done to control pollution. Albert Lai Kwong-tak, president of Conservancy Association, said the plans were in line with national policy of conserving water resources but feared insufficient funding and poor co-ordination might render the scheme less effective. 'Different departments on the mainland are responsible for taking care of drinking water and sewage treatment. If they are not co-ordinated well, it will just spoil the effort,' he said. Carlos Lo Wing-hung, from the Polytechnic University's Department of Management, said that Guangdong could use more build operate transfer (BOT) projects and private sector participation to clean up the river. 'It is hard to see how these projects could be financed without private sector participation,' he said. Rudolf Wu Siu-sang, director of the Centre for Coastal Pollution and Conservation at City University and a member of the monitoring group of the Harbour Areas Treatment Scheme, welcomed the Guangdong authorities' efforts. He cast doubt on whether any planned treatments would remove the nutrients released into the river system which cause hazardous algal blooms known as red tides. 'There won't be significant improvement in water quality in Hong Kong seas unless the nutrients are removed. But the project might be effective in cleaning up a localised site in Guangdong,' he said. At present, the Environmental Protection Department is working with Guangdong authorities to devise a modelling system predicting the pollution load in the Pearl River estuary. A working group has been meeting regularly to discuss the project, but no timetable for action has been set.