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Update on recent surge in water pollution on Lantau

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Hong Kong’s beaches may be looking cleaner now than a few weeks ago, but the problem doesn’t appear to be over just yet…

In response to the unprecedented amount of trash washing up on a daily basis, residents pulled together to organise multiple beach clean-ups across the territory, clearing masses of waste from the sand.

According to reports, the government has collected around ten times more trash on Lantau shores so far in 2016 than in previous years. Officials have stated that this is due to the recent heavy rain and flooding in Guangdong.

As a result, the government has announced that they are in contact with mainland officials to see how they can monitor the situation and to create interdepartmental groups to work together to tackle the crisis. Specific details on any action has yet to be given out.

However, district counselor of Discovery Bay, Amy Yung, is not that optimistic. “I don’t see they have done [a] sufficient job in the past,” she said. “I hope from now on they will be more active in the coordination work because this time it’s the massive inflow of the marine waste, which is extremely unusual.”

Photo credit: Frankie McYuen

On a positive note, Discovery Bay and Lantau beaches have seen a significant improvement over the past week. Photos shared yesterday morning from Cheung Sha Lower Beach show a generally clean shore. However, Cheung Sha resident, Frankie McYuen warns that “the rubbish has not been gone. It’s just gone back to the sea.”

Photo credit: Gary Stokes

So the problem isn’t over just yet, and Asia director for Sea Shepherd, Gary Stokes, has continued to work closely with respective government departments to analyse samples of trash found along South Lantau. While a large proportion of waste has proven to be from mainland China, much of the trash being collected has consisted of crushed and soil-stained plastic cups and bowls. Gary believes that this indicates they have been previously buried and have either been dug up and dumped at sea or that they are coming from a landfill site close to the sea.

In a Facebook post last week, Gary said, ” Where this location is remains unknown however this info has been shared and hopefully on both sides of the border they can try and track [it] down. Especially as we are heading into typhoon season. If not found quickly a typhoon could release a lot more of the same!”

Sea Shepherd has called on members of the public to contact them if they see large quantities of clear plastic cups and bowls to help narrow down potential sources of the waste based on currents.

Main article image: Gary Stokes

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