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Severe pollution blights China's Pearl River Delta
Updated: 2005-06-22 20:15

BEIJING (AFP) - China's Pearl River estuary is so badly polluted the fish that once thrived in its waters have virtually vanished.

"We found 95 percent of the 2,500-square-metre (26,900 square feet) sea area we examined was excessively contaminated," said Xia Zhen, head of a study team for the Guangzhou Marine Geological Survey organization.

Xia and his team have been testing seawater areas of the estuary in China's south since 2003, China Daily reported Wednesday.

The contamination includes heavy metals, oil, nitrogen, ammonia and other chemical matter with levels of pollutants far higher than standards set by the State Environmental Protection Administration.

In 2004, nearly 2.5 million tons of pollutants produced by agriculture and industry flowed into the mouth of the Pearl River.

The survey revealed that over 200 kinds of fish previously spawned and lived in the area, but few remain.

"More and more fish have moved away from the polluted sea or have died from the toxic water," said Xia. "Few fish can survive there now."

Besides fishermen's livelihoods, the ecosystem of the area is also under threat. Xia said mangrove swamps were disappearing.

The group concluded that sea reclamation projects and over exploitation of sea sand were two of the main reasons for the changes, weakening the power of the sea's current to help clean the area.

Chen Guangrong, director of the Guangdong Provincial Environmental Protection Bureau, was cited as saying that as well as industrial pollutants over two billion tons of sewage drained into the estuary last year.

The estuary covers the coastlines of many economically developed cities and regions, including Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Hong Kong.

Serious pollution blights large parts of China as a consequence of its rapid economic development.

On Sunday Pan Yue, deputy director of the State Environmental Protection Administration, warned China faced an ecological disaster unless it did more to curb pollution.

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