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Thursday, June 22, 2000, updated at 10:16(GMT+8)

Marine Study Begins for Cleaner Water

Although they are seafood lovers, Yang Lianfeng and his colleagues at the South China Sea Environment Monitoring Center do not eat shellfish anymore.

Witnessing the increasing amount of pollutants being discharged into the South China Sea in recent years, these marine researchers have become afraid of the heavy metal toxins that may hide in the shellfish.

"I'm not hinting that all the shellfish are toxic, but caution is necessary because no one knows which part of the ocean is clean and which is not," Yang said.

But thanks to the marine research started a month ago, Yang and other local residents will hopefully be able to find out whether the seafood is healthy or not by the end of next year.

Launched as a Sino-Japanese technical co-operation programme, the 17-month research project will study how to improve marine environment of the Pearl River Estuary, the most severely polluted part of the South China Sea.

The study team includes 10 specialists selected by Japan International Co-operation Agency, the official agency responsible for implementing this technical co-operation, and 10 Chinese counterparts.

Mitsuaki ITO, vice-leader of the research team, said that in order to formulate an improvement plan, efforts will be made not only to identify the current condition of environmental pollution, but also to develop a water quality simulation model which the Chinese counterparts have never tried before.

So far, the study is the first complicated research China has ever done on its marine environment, according to Yu Bin, an official from the South China Sea Branch under the State Oceanic Administration.

He said the study can shed light on the question of whether the pollutants discharged from the mainland have affected the water around Hong Kong.

The largest of its kind in South China, the Pearl River Estuary encompasses highly industrialized and densely populated cities such as Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai and Dongguan.

Rapid population increase and industrial growth in the Pearl River Delta since the 1970s have caused various environmental pollution problems.

Water quality goes down because the waste water drainage from cities, industries and agricultural areas are not sufficiently treated. A red tide occurs more frequently and has resulted in an economic loss of 40 million yuan (US$4.82 million).

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Although they are seafood lovers, Yang Lianfeng and his colleagues at the South China Sea Environment Monitoring Center do not eat shellfish anymore.

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