This past week’s severe flooding in central and southern China not only had devastating effects for the people of China, their crops, and their livelihoods, but the high floods are causing massive environmental consequences for Hong Kong oceans and beaches.
Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department said an astounding six to ten times the normal volume of marine refuse has been washing up on its southern beaches, believing it to be the result of heavy rains in the Pearl River Basin.
In response to questioning by the South China Morning Post’s web-based news, the department said: “We suspect that the floods in mid-June on the mainland might have brought the refuse to the sea and then the refuse is brought to Hong Kong by the southwest monsoon wind and the sea currents.”
“A similar phenomenon happened in 2005 when a massive amount of debris and refuse was found at various beaches and coastal areas of Hong Kong after a serious once-in-a-1oo-year flood on the mainland,” it said.
The imposing amount of trash and soot washing ashore has the people of Hong Kong in total outrage, calling upon their government to take immediate action. Like many in this age of technology, hundreds of Hong Kongers took to the internet to express their downright anger.
And Hong Kong officials are pointing fingers at China.
Several environmental groups also suggest that some of the waste may be coming from illegal dumps – in Chinese waters – on the shores of Wailingding Island, near the southern coast of Hong Kong Island.
Gary Stokes, director for Southeast Asia of environmental group the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, believes this is the first time the Hong Kong government has directly accused China of contaminating the city’s oceans and beaches with marine debris and rubbish, the South China Morning Post reported.
He said: “The common answer to our problems seems to be to conveniently blame our neighbor when reality shows much of it is ours, but in this case it is warranted, as the trash talks – and it clearly says made in China.”
The incredible volume of marine refuse washing onto the Hong Kong coastline in recent weeks shows it must be coming from a large source. “Trash making its way into river systems and sewer drains is a failure of preventative management by the mainland departments tasked with this responsibility,” he continued.
“The makeup of the trash is also alarming – there are so many clear plastic cups and bowls of exactly the same type, which would indicate it’s coming from one location. These aren’t from accidental run-off into the sea from random sources – this looks like illegal dumping.”
Clean-up efforts are coming into full swing, however. Citizens of Hong Kong are taking action to claim back their beaches and rid them of the disgusting trash washing ashore from China.
One such group preparing to take on this arduous task is the volunteer group Hong Kong Cleanup Challenge. Now in its 16th year of mobilizing an environmental anti-trash team, the challenge will take place between September 1 and December 1 on beaches and country trails and in urban areas throughout the city.
Despite these energized army of cleaners and do-gooders, co-founder of the group Lisa Christensen said the government should not rely on citizens to clean up the mess.
“Volunteer clean-ups are an educational tool and a source of data. They are not the solution to the tidal wave of trash in Hong Kong’s waters,” she said.
Director of the Trash Free Seas Programme at Ocean Conservancy, Nicholas Mallos, told SCMP, “There is an alarming volume of trash in the ocean, and we need to take action to stem the tide and ultimately reverse this trend.”
Mallos underscored the severity of the current circumstances, pointing out that the refuse flowing in from the mainland is not a phenomenon limited to the here-and-now. The continued environmental effects are serious – and dire.
“If this trend continues, it is projected that by 2025 there could be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fin fish,” He said.
But there is some hope, he expressed.
“With activities like Hong Kong Cleanup, the amount of trash collected by people working together can result in cleaner beaches, rivers and lakes for all to enjoy.”