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LCQ22: Marine refuse
     Following is a question by the Hon Kenneth Lau and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (December 14):
     It has been reported that in recent months, large quantities of marine refuse have been washed up onto a number of local beaches, including Lung Kwu Tan in Tuen Mun. Quite a lot of such refuse was plastic bags and plastic bottles the packaging papers of which were printed with simplified Chinese characters, arousing the suspicion that such marine refuse came from the Pearl River Delta waters in the Mainland. Besides, some media have uncovered that some Mainland vessels have illegally dumped refuse in the waters of Wanshan Qundao, Zhuhai, which is just 40 kilometres away from Lantau Island. While the authorities have stepped up efforts to clear the refuse on a number of beaches, there are views that such a practice treats the symptoms only but not the root cause of the problem. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of refuse clearance operations conducted by the authorities on various beaches in the past five years, and the quantity of the refuse collected;
(2) whether it has investigated from where the marine refuse found on Lung Kwu Tan, Tuen Mun came; if it has investigated, of the outcome and whether, in order to solve the problem of marine refuse drifting into Hong Kong waters, it has discussed with the relevant authorities of the place from where such refuse came; if it has not investigated, the reasons for that;
(3) whether it has gained an understanding from the relevant Mainland authorities in respect of the aforesaid incident of illegal dumping by vessels, and requested them to take law enforcement actions vigorously; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(4) whether it has formulated measures to solve the marine refuse problem in the long run; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
(1) Various government departments are responsible for collecting and cleaning up marine refuse (including floating refuse and shoreline refuse washed ashore) according to the locations where such refuse is found.  These departments include the Marine Department (MD), the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD), the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD), and the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD). The AFCD may conduct up to six marine refuse cleanup operations per week for marine parks while twice per month for marine reserve.  Marine refuse cleanup operations are arranged by each of the rest of the above departments at least once a day, and are subject to adjustments according to actual situations of individual locations (e.g. after typhoons). From 2012 to October 2016, the total amount of marine refuse collected and cleaned up by each of the above departments at beaches all over Hong Kong* was 15 059, 14 903, 15 236, 15 510 and 14 245 tonnes respectively.
* Including refuse collection bins on land at the marine parks at Hoi Ha Wan and Tung Ping Chau, and the refuse collected within the barbeque areas at Tung Ping Chau.
(2) and (3) As pointed out in the Marine Refuse Study (the Study) conducted by the Government in 2013-14, the prevailing wind (i.e. south-westerly in wet season and north-easterly in dry season) has marked effect on refuse accumulation. In general, shorelines in Tuen Mun, Tsuen Wan, Southern and Islands Districts tend to accumulate more refuse in the wet season. Moreover, refuse accumulated at local storm water drains and shorelines would be washed to sea during the summer when rainfalls are high, and certain refuse would be carried by the outflow of the Pearl River into the waters and coasts of Hong Kong. The Study has identified 27 priority sites for enhanced cleanup of marine refuse (including Lung Kwu Tan in Tuen Mun) and the relevant departments have, since April 2015, strategically enhanced the cleaning frequency at these priority sites. In view of the significant increase in the amount of marine refuse found at Lung Kwu Tan in Tuen Mun, the FEHD has arranged its contractors to enhance their cleaning services by deploying more manpower and increasing the cleaning frequency from once per week to four times per week.
     Regarding the suspected dumping of refuse by cargo ships in the waters of Wanshan Qundao of Zhuhai, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), the AFCD and the MD promptly relayed the case to the Department of Environmental Protection of Guangdong Province (GDEPD), as well as other fisheries and marine authorities upon receipt of the report in August this year.  According to the GDEPD, Mainland law enforcement agencies had already commenced operations both at sea and on land to proactively track down the illegal dumping activities. Patrol was also stepped up to vigorously combat such activities. Later on, the GDEPD advised that the operations had delivered results, with vessels and personnel suspected of illegal activities detained and illegal marine dumping curbed. In addition, the MD has also stepped up patrol in Hong Kong waters, in particular the offshore waters near Hong Kong's boundary, to check on the situation concerning floating refuse. Over the past few months, no large quantity of floating refuse has been found. The EPD will continue to enhance exchange and communication with relevant Mainland authorities on various regional marine environmental matters via the Hong Kong-Guangdong Marine Environmental Management Special Panel set up this October.
(4) The Government established the Inter-departmental Working Group on Clean Shorelines (Working Group) in November 2012 to enhance the collaboration among relevant government departments to address the marine refuse problem. Having considered the recommendations made under the Study, the Working Group has formulated long-term strategies to tackle the marine refuse problem in Hong Kong by adopting a three-pronged approach, namely reducing waste generation at source, reducing the amount of refuse entering the marine environment, and removing refuse from the marine environment. Apart from co-ordinating the efforts of relevant government departments, the EPD has also endeavoured to educate our community in this aspect to enhance the public awareness of keeping our shorelines clean. Such efforts include broadcasting announcements in the public interest and organising various publicity and education activities (e.g. beach cleanup activities, roving exhibitions and design competitions), which all aim at helping members of the public better understand the marine refuse problem, thereby encouraging them to change their habits to reduce waste at source and prevent refuse from entering the sea.
Ends/Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:18
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