Protection of the marine environment in China has been hampered by a series of problems, environment inspectors have found.
A joint inspection made by the State Environmental Protection Administration and departments such as the State Oceanic Administration has found that sewage treatment in coastal cities is below standard.
Less than half of the sewage in almost half of the 20 inspected coastal cities is treated before being released into the sea.
In some cities, no sewage treatment plant has been set up at all, or if they do exist, they are dysfunctional.
The major reasons for this failure are a lack of investment, low treatment charges and the absence of a sound financial system that supports sewage treatment facilities, sources with the State Environmental Protection Administration said.
Inspectors have also nailed some enterprises that have been illegally discharging pollutants into the sea.
"That is an old problem," said a member of staff under the pollution control division of the administration, who only identified himself as Wu.
Wu said the environment authorities had suggested local governments shut down companies or order them to improve their environmental protection facilities.
The amount of waste going into the sea is on the rise and poses a severe threat to marine ecology and the environment.
Between 1999 and last year, 470 million cubic meters of waste entered the sea. The amount released last year was 144 per cent more than that of 1999.
There are other problems. There has been a poor response to accidents that leave pollution, and fish farming is carried out on a large scale in coastal regions and pollutes surrounding sea areas.
Wu said similar inspections would continue to be carried out in the future to improve marine protection.
In recent years the number of annual oil leaks in China's seas has averaged 500, causing great problems, according to a report on marine environment publicized by the administration in early June.
Meanwhile, 'red tide' in China's seas has been on the rise during the past three years.
'Red tide' is caused by pollutants that turn the ocean a reddish color.
One of the most important actions China is taking to improve the environment is the Blue Sea Action Program for the Bohai Sea, which was launched in 2001 to control the discharge of industrial waste, to decrease environmental pollution and to restore the damaged ecological system in the sea.
By the end of last year, more than 12 billion yuan (US$1.4 billion) had been invested in the program, which was launched in 2001.
To date the discharge of pollutants such as chemicals from Liaoning, Hebei and Shandong provinces and Tianjin Municipality around the Bohai Sea rim has declined at a stable pace.
The country has also set up more than 80 nature reserves to protect marine life.
(China Daily August 5, 2004)