Hong Kong coastal pollution even worse than feared
WHEN A CIRCUIT OF the coastline of Hong Kong Island led to the discovery of shocking rubbish-strewn beaches, Paul Niel and wife Esther Roling knew their adventure was to have a postscript. They returned from their adventure [see the Sep/oct 2017 issue of Action Asia for the story] having catalogued 163 sites needing urgent attention. Then, shortly afterwards, in August, came a palm oil spill, followed by typhoons which stirred the pot further. The result had some describing the city’s ocean and coast as facing the worst pollution it had ever recorded. It all started on Hong Kong Island’s eastern shores in May, when adventurers Paul Niel and Esther Roling began their ‘Round the Island’ project. Alternately climbing and swimming, they battled seacliffs, strong waves and cruel injury by jellyfish and sea urchins. Seawater samples were taken and noted along the way, as well as the trash sites encountered. What they found was masses of garbage far closer to beaches and people’s houses than they’d originally thought: “They’re not even far from the main beaches, sometimes just a 50-metre walk along the coastline, which is accessible if you’re a bit sporty. But if people don’t see it, they don’t know it,” said Roling. Five months later, the pair initiated the f irst coastal clean-up in Shek O Village via the Hk125coastal Facebook page, which was founded by an Australian conservationist Robert Lockyer in June as a hub for local clean-up efforts of NGOS and environmental groups. A marine collision of Global Apollon and Kota Ganteng in the Pearl River estuary then aggravated the mess, spilling 1,000 tonnes of palm oil into Mainland Chinese waters, which spread to Hong Kong and coated the beaches. Invited to step in, owner of a Shenzhenbased oil spill clean-up company, David Schaus, highlighted yet another case: the fuel oil leaked after the 2,000-tonne Yue Hai 1 slowly sank in August. Typhoon Hato was to blame, but so too was the lack of timely stabilisation of the ship. Basic pollution control measures such as rigging a containment boom then didn’t happen. “I don’t understand why they didn’t mandate an environmental survey or a risk analysis before a salvage operation was done. The Marine Department let the ship sink and release pollution into the environment. They simply let the insurance company select the lowest-cost-bidder to do the salvage operation,” said Schaus. Faced with a host of threats to local environments, Niel and Roling suggest anyone interested to help can subscribe to the Hk125coastal Facebook page or download the Globalalert app by Ocean Recovery Alliance.