Oceans key to national ecological strategy

By Wang Qian (China Daily)

2013-03-27 07:43

When former Chinese President Hu Jintao announced a plan to build a more beautiful China, caring for the nation's 3 million square kilometers of marine territory was no small part.

In an effort to balance the booming marine economy with the need to protect the fragile environment, the country's marine authorities are taking various steps to protect the ecosystem during a time of rapid development on the coast.

Li Xiaoming, director of the department of marine environment protection of the State Oceanic Administration, said the administration plans a series of measures to increase monitoring of marine pollution and enforcement.

This year, the government plans to draft a national standard that limits pollutants discharged into the sea.

According to the China's 2012 marine environment report released by SOA, more than 17 million metric tons of pollutants were discharged from 72 monitored rivers into the sea, including 46,000 tons of heavy metals and 93,000 tons of oil.

"Controlling polluting discharges will effectively alleviate the marine pollution," said Guan Daoming, director of the National Marine Environmental Monitoring Center.

For some severely polluted bodies of water, such as the Bohai Bay, stricter measures are needed.

Li said in Bohai, a system has been set up to strictly control the effect of human activities. Programs are being launched to curb excessive land reclamation while specialists are monitoring biodiversity and the ecosystem in the bay.

The system requires authorities in the areas surrounding the bay to jointly enhance management of offshore oil platforms and waste discharges.

A severe oil spill in June 2011 released more than 720 barrels of crude oil and 2,610 barrels of oily mud in the bay, polluting about 6,200 sq km of water, according to the oceanic administration.

The incident set off alarms for the oceanic watchdog about the increasing risks posed by crowded coastal industrial parks and the rapid expansion of offshore energy exploration.

A spokesman for the administration said authorities will launch a risk evaluation in the coastal regions to prevent potential incidents.

"(The administration) is organizing coastal provinces to jointly build a safety system," Li said.

Data released by the Ministry of Land and Resources showed that from 2006 to 2010, about 41 oil spills occurred in China's waters, including 19 in Bohai.

Sun Baocun, a professor from Tianjin University, was worried that the country's offshore development is proceeding too rapidly, outstripping the marine environment's capacity to handle human activities.

The State Council announced zoning plans in last October for eight major coastal regions during the 2011-20 period. The zoning scheme will provide a workable basis for the effective protection of China's ocean environment and for the rational exploitation of resources.

"Protecting the marine environment can help build a sustainable economy," said Wang Feng, director of the administration's marine forecast and disaster-relief department.

The nation's 12th Five-Year Plan for 2011-15 stresses the importance of preventing over-exploitation of marine resources and stopping excessive land reclamation in coastal areas.

According to the oceanic administration, authorities aim to double the nation's 2010 marine GDP by 2020. The total value from China's marine industries was less than 4 trillion yuan ($ 635 billion) in 2010, and it surpassed 5 trillion in 2012.

The rapid development of marine industries has brought with it a proportional increase in water pollution. The area of coastal waters classified as severely polluted also increased from 44,000 sq km in 2011 to 68,000 sq km last year.

wangqian@chinadaily.com.cn

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