May 17, 2006

China says south coast water pollution “serious”

BEIJING (Reuters) - China has admitted that measures to
tackle "serious" water pollution in the southern booming
province of Guangdong are not working, state media reported on

Water quality in both coastal waters and inland estuaries
remained poor, the China Daily said, citing Chinese experts.

The drainage of land pollutants to the sea was a key reason
for the poor sea quality and poor ecological environment, the
China Daily quoted Zhong Jianqiang, an environmental
researcher, as saying.

Citing a recent environmental report, Zhong added that
related waters inshore, including the mouth of the Pearl River,
had been found to be contaminated with cadmium, arsenic and

Pollutants discharged to the sea via the Pearl River
reached 2 million tons in 2005, Zhong said.

With current measures to control pollution not working, new
policies to control discharges would be drafted, the China
Daily quoted Guo Xingmin, an official with the province's sea
and fishing administration, as saying.

Despite 66 fishing protection zones covering an area of
585,000 hectares, fishermen believe the pollution is
contributing to dwindling catches, forcing them to trawl in
more remote waters, the China Daily said.

"We have to go much further away now to fish," the China
Daily quoted 57-year-old fisherman, Peng Chengzhang, as saying.

"Pollution is to blame," he said.

Guangdong's poor environmental report card comes ahead of a
planned mass "swimathon" in provincial capital Guangzhou's
stretch of the Pearl River.

The 10,000-strong swim was planned "to celebrate the better
quality of the river," with Guangzhou mayor Zhang Guangning
promising to sign up, the China Daily reported in March.

No date has been fixed.

In recent years, provincial and local governments have
poured billions into cleaning up Guangdong's waters, but human
development and highly polluting industries continue to take
their toll.

Last December, water supplies in several Guangdong cities
were hit by a toxic waste spill from a zinc smelter flowing
along the North river.

The accident occurred within weeks of a chemical plant
explosion in China's northern province of Heilongjiang that
poured highly toxic benzene compounds into the Songhua River,
endangering water supply for millions.