Over the past few decades, industrialized countries around the South China Sea have been more concerned with maximizing national economic growth and ensuring adequate energy supplies than in preserving their regional maritime environment.
Surrounded by some of the most rapidly industrialized countries in the world, and home to more than 60 million people residing in Guangzhou, Hong Kong and other cities, the Pearl River Delta is becoming a sink for environmental pollution and the world’s largest urban area, an ideal place to investigate impact of megacities on coastal waters.
On August 2, the team of 24 scientists from Germany and 16 from China decided to gather their forces and started a month-long expedition that will reveal the impact of industrialization and megacities on coastal seas. They plan to collect samples of pollutants, naturally occurring substances and marine organisms at more than 70 locations off Hong Kong in the South China Sea. The research seeks to investigate the amounts of contaminants such as microplastics, ultraviolet (UV) filters and coffee that are ending up in the water bodies.
The research will trace the development of pollution in the region over a period of five years. It is part of a German-Chinese project called Megacity’s fingerprint in Chinese marginal seas: Investigation of pollutant fingerprints? and dispersal?(Megapol).
Some pollutants that are used in pesticides (such as DDT) are well-known to researchers but others, such as microplastics, antibiotics and UV filters, are considered emerging pollutants because scientists have only recently developed techniques to measure them.
The position of megacities such as Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Shenzhen leads to particular environmental consequences that have a direct impact on the health and prosperity of people living in and around such cities. More research is needed on ‘new’ pollutants such as microplastics and coffee, but what steps can manufacturers and consumers take to protect the marine environment in the?meantime?