Promoting public participation in water pollution issues with famous Chinese freshwater activist, Mr Ma Jun
Mr Ma Jun, being the famous Chinese dams/ freshwater activist and the Director of an NGO called the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), was named as one of the 100 most influential persons in the world by Time Magazine in May 2006. IPE aims to help promote access to environmental information, which is the pre-condition for engaging public participation in environmental protection.
"The website means to give the public an easy access to a rather comprehensive set of information on water pollution. If the public do not have this information and are unable to acquire data on environmental issues, how are they to judge when their participation is needed?" said Mr Ma Jun. "Environmental protection requires public participation-informed participation by all groups, protecting their own environmental interests which ultimately will protect the environment overall."
The website was launched in 2006 and it provides information on the water quality of cities across China and identifies more than 4700 companies around China that are accused of causing water pollution, including Chinese joint ventures with global corporations. With higher public awareness of the water quality, public participation can encourage companies to improve their discharge standards. The website has received much attention from the public, local and foreign media, foreign companies and politicians, and it has also been viewed favourably by the Chinese Government who has been lately actively enforcing pollution regulations and prosecuting offenders.
On the other side of the border, water pollution is taking its toll on the ecological system in Hong Kong. The ecological value of the Mai Po Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site is declining with increasing urbanisation of the catchment on both the Hong Kong and Shenzhen sides of the Bay over the past 20 years.
As a result, many of the animals that live in Deep Bay (e.g. fish, shrimps and mudflat worm, crabs and shellfish) cannot tolerate the high levels of nutrients and low levels of oxygen and as a result, their diversity and number has declined. "With fewer foods available, the number of waterbirds wintering in Deep Bay has been undergoing a decline," said Mr Bena Smith, Mai Po Reserve Officer, WWF Hong Kong.
Although both the Hong Kong and Shenzhen governments are taking steps to try and reduce the pollution loading into the Bay, these measures are insufficient to bring the loading down to levels that will allow the Bay to recover.
A wider range of measures to reduce the pollution loading into Deep Bay is needed as well as greater openness in allowing the public access to data on the ‘health’ of the Bay held by both the Hong Kong and Shenzhen governments.