Nearly 8.3 billion tons of sewage, much of it untreated, poured into the coastal waters off south China's Guangdong Province last year, 60 percent more than five years ago, according to a report released by the Guangdong Provincial Oceanic and Fishery Administration.
Part of the sewage had undergone treatment, but "a considerable amount" of it was untreated, said Lu Chaohua, a research fellow with the Guangdong Oceanic and Fishery Environment Monitoring Center.
The sewage was estimated to contain 1.26 million tons of chemicals, including heavy metals like lead, copper and cadmium, the report said.
"The excessive sewage in some coastal areas has led to a rapid deterioration of the ecological environment," Lu said.
"Fish stocks in the coastal areas of Guangdong are experiencing a degradation in terms of quality and variety, and pollution is to blame," he added.
Pollution in the inshore areas of Guangdong is severe, the report warned and pollution at the mouth of the Pearl River and around the coastal cities of Shantou and Zhanjiang is "extremely severe".
"Local governments around China have paid great attention to the treatment of pollution in rivers, but they have ignored oceanic pollution," said Li Zhujiang, director of the administration.
"Government investment in the protection of the marine environment is very poor, accounting for less than one tenth of the funds directed towards treatment of river pollution," Li said.
Li also called on the environmental protection agency of Guangdong to introduce stricter standards regarding the discharge of sewage into the sea, particularly by industrial enterprises. Guangdong is still using the same standard as it did a decade ago.
Coastal pollution is not just affecting Guangdong. About 25 percent of China's coastal areas are moderately or heavily polluted, according to a report on China's oceanic environment released in January.
The report revealed that 55 percent of the water in the country's 110,000 square kilometers of coastal areas failed to be classified as "clean".
Nearly 31.7 billion tons of polluted water flowed into the country's offshore waters in 2005, accounting for 60 percent of the total waste water produced in the country, according to the State Environmental Protection Administration.
As a member of the Global Program of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based activities, China is currently drafting a National Program of Action to protect its marine environment from land-based activities. Details are yet to be released.
(Xinhua News Agency May 17, 2007)