Hong Kong coastal pol­lu­tion even worse than feared

Action Asia - - NEWS & VIEWS -

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.

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