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    Pollution worsens in country's sea waters
Qin Jize
2005-01-10 07:00

Marine pollution has posed a grave challenge to China over the past year, a spokesman for the State Oceanic Administration said yesterday in Beijing.

"The coastal marine ecosystem is worsening, the quality of ocean water is deteriorating and large amounts of pollutants are infiltrating from land to the sea," said Li Chunxian.

It spells a severe challenge to the country's ocean environment control. Li's remarks came after his administration released a report on the condition of China's seas and marine accidents in 2004.

A total of 169,000 square kilometres failed to reach the standard of clean water, 27,000 square kilometres up on the previous year.

The most heavily polluted areas are concentrated along the coastline, and include Bohai Bay and the mouth of the Yangtze, he said.

Lying off the coast of North China, one of the country's most populous and developed areas, the Bohai Sea has witnessed the highest increase of pollution levels.

An area of 27,000 square kilometres, accounting for 35 per cent of its waters, failed to reach clean water standards.

Discharge of land waste through ocean dumping is the major cause of ocean pollution, said Li.

The report revealed 80 per cent of sea areas near effluent outlets were heavily polluted.

Resulting pollution has caused the closure of beaches and limited the recreational and aesthetic value of the sea.

What is more, most of the seafood harvested from the ocean comes from inshore waters and the pollution has affected aquatic products.

"Pollution has undermined the multiple functions of the sea," he said.

In 2004, major pollutants carried by rivers such as the Yellow River and the Yangtze into the sea weighed 11.45 million tons.

Li said land waste pollution, together with over-exploitation of resources had worsened the eco-system.

He called for more efforts to repair the damage done and prevention measures.

China is one of the countries vulnerable to marine calamities, but 2004 had not been a significant year in terms of marine disasters.

Economic losses suffered by the coastal areas from storms, typhoons, red tides, tidal waves and oil spills reached 5.4 billion yuan (US$653 million) and claimed the lives of 140 people.

"Typhoons and storms were the major marine catastrophes for China in the past year. They caused 5.2 billion yuan (US$628) of direct economic loss and killed 49 people," said Li.

Red tides occurred 96 times last year - 19 per cent less than the previous year - and were more often found in the East China Sea and Bohai Sea. More than 20 were toxic.

Fortunately, the toxic red tides did not affect human beings and the aquatic breeding industry thanks to rapid emergency measures taken by marine authorities, said Li.

China has installed a basic marine environment and disaster observation network and an early warning system, covering both offshore areas and distant waters, with the co-operation of several departments.

(China Daily 01/10/2005 page5)


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