By Poyi (Natalie) Leung & Tiago Azevedo
The levels of certain metals in coastal water around Macau are of concern, especially mercury and zinc – a trend that the Environmental Protection Bureau (DSPA) described as “unsatisfactory”.
According to the Macau State of Environment Report 2008-2009 unveiled by the bureau yesterday, “in past years, the water off the coast of Macau, although at different levels, showed signs of pollution in every place where samples were collected”.
“Amongst all, the highest level of pollution was found at the Inner Harbour,” the report pointed out.
“In 2008 and 2009, the concentration of zinc and mercury was at a rather high level in most places where samples were collected,” says the report, adding that “in recent years, the quality of the coastal water has been getting worse”.
Hence, the report suggests a methodical evaluation of the pollution levels of heavy metals, “especially to find the sources of zinc and mercury pollution”.
“A careful study should be carried out to identify the source of pollution, what is causing it and what impact it has [on Macau’s environment], so that the right measures can be put in place to improve the quality of the coastal waters of the territory.”
The report adds, “It’s important to set up a monitoring system to measure the quality of waters and keep that system updated”.
The report also rated the work at the wastewater treatment facilities unsatisfactory and that recycled water should be better used. According to the DSPA’s study, “it is essential to improve and update Macau’s wastewater treatment plants and draw a general plan for the whole wastewater treatment system”.
Furthermore, it says it’s also important to “strengthen the control and monitoring over the wastewater discharge by local companies”.
The report suggests tighter regulations appropriate for Macau “in order to ensure the quality of the coastal waters around the territory”.
Solid waste breaks record
The daily generation of municipal solid waste per capita reached a record high of 1.64 kilograms in 2009, the solid waste delivered to the incinerator was mainly composed of organic compounds (20.9 percent and 54.2 percent respectively in 2008 and 2009), plastic (40.9 percent and 9.4 percent), paper (15.8 percent and 19.9 percent) and fabric (5.6 percent and 0.3 percent).
The DSPA has admitted in the report that “a large part” of the solid waste could have been recycled.
“Although the recycling volume has increased year-on-year in the last couple of years, overall speaking the proportion was still very small when compared to the volume of solid waste handled by the incinerator,” they continued.
In addition, with the continued growth in the number of cars on Macau roads in recent years, the report highlighted concerns over the issue of waste vehicles.
In 2008, the territory registered 12,309 waste vehicles, up 12.2 percent from the preceding year. Of which, the numbers of light automobiles and light scooters were the highest in the last seven years, at respectively 4,644 and 4,221.
However, the total figure went down 21.1 percent to 9,710 in 2009, according to the report.
Besides the aspect of waste, the bureau also looked into the situation of Macau’s atmospheric environment, water resources, nature conservation, noise pollution as well as environmental management.
DSPA director Cheong Sio Kei said at the launch ceremony yesterday that the report did not only summarise the challenges the local environment was facing, but also proposed suggestions to improve the situation, after taking into consideration the new round of development trends in the next couple of years and the development plan of the Pearl River Delta Region.
“The report is a very important indicator for the government in the future. Combined with the findings of the public’s environmental awareness survey released early this year, the results provide a valuable reference for Macau’s environmental policy,” Cheong told reporters.
However, he stressed that apart from government efforts, participation from residents and enterprises is also necessary in order to well conserve the city’s environment.
The DSPA chief disclosed that in the second half of this year, the public will be consulted about the 10-year plan of environmental protection work in Macau.
Meanwhile, the bureau is currently working on the 2010 State of Environment Report which is expected to be published in 2012.
Cheong said the DSPA will strive to launch the report as early as possible, but it all depends on “how quick the bureau can obtain environmental data and information from other departments”.
The 2008-2009 report is available in Chinese and Portuguese and the English version will be published between July and August. Copies can be obtained for free at the DSPA office in NAPE or on its website.