China's shoreline waters seriously polluted: expert

Boats sit on the bank of the algae-filled Chaolu lake in Hefei, Anhui province June 3, 2008. REUTERS/Jianan Yu

BEIJING (Reuters) - Vast stretches of China’s coastal waters are seriously polluted, and the country’s coastal wetlands and mangrove forests are vanishing, Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday, citing a marine specialist.

Luan Weixin, a professor at the Economics and Management College at Dalian Maritime University, said 50 percent of inland coastal wetlands had disappeared because of excessive reclamation and 80 percent of coral reefs and mangrove forests had been destroyed over the past 50 years.

Severely affected areas included waters near East Liaoning, Bohai and Hangzhou bays, and the estuaries of the Yellow, Yangtze and Zhujiang rivers, as well as inshore areas of major coastal cities, he told a conference in the northern coastal city of Tianjin.

“Over the past 20 years or so, China’s marine economy has been developing at a staggeringly rapid pace and marine resources are being widely tapped. As a result, the condition of China’s inshore environment is deteriorating and the ocean ecology has been seriously damaged,” Luan said.

He was referring to the economic boom along coastal areas, including fishing but also land reclamation for development and construction of hotels and ports.

A total of 145,000 square kilometers (56,000 square miles) of shallow waters along China’s coast failed to meet quality standards, with 29,000 square kilometers of seawater considered to be seriously contaminated by major pollutants, such as inorganic nitrogen and phosphate, the Xinhua report said.

China has about 350,000 square kilometres of coastal and inland water area along its mainland coastline registered under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Reporting by Ken Wills; Editing by David Fogarty