Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Mao Zedong chose the place to dive into the sea and it still has a beach resort for party bosses. It is the Bohai Sea. But in 2006 alone some 1.58 billion tonnes of water contaminated by chemical substances were dumped into it. Fish are dying and a massive algal bloom, or red tide, has invaded it. Still local government is planning more miles of factories and harbour facilities.
The Bohai Sea is China’s most polluted sea according to the State Oceanic Administration. Every year it absorbs nearly 5.7 billion tonnes of sewage and 2 million tonnes of other solid waste—43 out of 52 rivers flowing into it are severely polluted.
And 80 per cent of the 112 discharge outlets in Tianjin, Shandong, Liaoning and Hebei frequently discharged chemicals, industrial waste and sewage into the sea.
The bay has also been hit more frequently by red tides. They consume the waste that flows into the coastal waters from rivers and streams, and poison the water and choke off sea life.
China’s State Environmental Protection Administration spent 21 billion yuan cleaning it up during the 10th Five-Year Plan as part of a 15-year national clean-up campaign; it plans to spend another 28.6 billion yuan from last year to 2010. But results so far have been limited.
Qikou, a village near Tianjin on the Bay of Bohai, had a rich fishing industry. Last summer an unprecedented discharge of industrial sewage from the upper reaches of the Canglangqu River. Red algae covered the coast, remove oxygen and cut off sunlight, killing marine life. Thousands of crabs, shrimp and fish died.
More than 600 hectares of fish farms were affected, according to village Chief Chen Lianfu, invaded by effluents from chemical plants, paper mills and leather factories in Henan, Shanxi, Shandong and Hebei.
Coastal sea fishing had to be suspended for the first time in years in September, and hundreds of fishermen were left jobless.
Shops in Beijing and Tianjin now refuse to buy local fish.
Qikou residents enjoyed an average income of 3,760 yuan in 2003, but average incomes dropped to a few hundred yuan last year.
Mr Chen told Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post that most residents had to take out loans to build their fish farms and now cannot continue.
"We will continue to petition the governments in Huanghua, Cangzhou and Hebei, and call for immediate action to stop pollution," Mr Chen said. "Otherwise, we will have no way to make a living. But first of all we must seek compensation for those living in great difficulty."
Despite the situation Tianjin plans to reclaim about 250 sq km from the sea to build dozens of industrial projects, including a power plant, a fishing port and several industrial parks. Hebei will reclaim up to 310 sq km of land to build the port of Caofeidian, only about 60km from Tianjin's port. And the port of Huanghua is expected to reclaim another 300 sq km from the Bohai Sea.
Tao Jianhua, an environmental engineering expert from Tianjin University, said such plans will have serious consequences for the environment and marine life.
“People used to think land-based pollution would have little impact on the sea, but this is very wrong,” she said. This kind of pollution is the result of “irrational development,” Professor Tao said.
In her opinion local authorities in Tianjin have yet to realise the importance of a balance between economic development and ecological preservation.
In the meantime, local farmers have little choice but to use contaminated water. But they don't eat their own produce, which will be sold in Beijing and Tianjin. The worst part is that no one can tell whether it is from a polluted area,” Tao said. (PB)