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Biodiversity steering committee ends three years of work ‘disappointed’

Environment Undersecretary Christine Loh Kung-wai apologised to committee members and said she hoped the work their work would continue

Members of a steering committee tasked with preparing the city’s first biodiversity action and strategy plan (BSAP) have ended three years of work without receiving a draft report from the government.

Disappointed members – whose terms expire this month – had expected a draft before their final meeting on Friday but were presented only with a summary of the public consultation results and a rough outline of what the report would cover.

Members pointed out that their 2013 letter of appointment had tasked them with “steering the formulation process”, “consider recommendations” and to “ratify the final draft of the BSAP” before its submission to policymaking bodies.

“We were asked to ratify the document. This was the task we were given and we need to know if our task had been truncated and why,” said member Paul Zimmerman.

Member Ruy Baretto was concerned that the committee was missing out on a crucial step of the process and called on the authorities to present a final draft to them for scrutiny at another meeting. “We are being pushed off the boat before the boat reaches the harbour and this is unacceptable,” he said.

Professor Jim Chi-yung added: “We are all quite disappointed because members had expected a draft report today but all we got was a table of contents.”

Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department assistant director Simon Chan Kin-fung believed there may have been some “confusion” with their roles. This was followed by an apology by Environment Undersecretary Christine Loh Kung-wai.

“We could not have given the so-called ratification to another body that is outside the government’s usual framework of dealing with policy,” Loh said. “I hope members will accept our apology and be willing to go on with the process in place.”

Loh also said there were no plans to extend members’ appointments and that the government was ready to finish the report and commence ministerial-level discussions.

She expected the final report to be published within the year.

The government received 2,444 submissions to a three month public consultation, which ended last month. Of these, 126 were individual submissions – most of which came from green groups – 85 were group submissions and 2,231 were standard “templates” submissions.

According to the department’s summary, “many” supported the extension of protected areas and there was “general support” for enriching urban biodiversity.

It acknowledged that green groups demanded 10 per cent of Hong Kong waters to be marine protected areas and that local communities emphasised the need to “respect land rights”. “Some” requested for the review of relevant legislation and policies.

To implement the BSAP plan, the AFCD has been allocated with HK$150 million to spend up to 2019. An advisory body and inter-departmental working group would also be formed to oversee its implementation.

Ecosystems more sensitive than previously thought

Three-quarters of EU ecosystems are currently exposed to more nitrogen deposition than they can cope with and nearly one-tenth is receiving too much acid fallout.

Critical loads are scientific estimates of the amounts of pollutants that various ecosystems can tolerate without being harmed. They are sometimes referred to as the limits on what “nature can tolerate.”

If pollutant depositions exceed the critical load limit, damage to sensitive ecosystems will by definition occur sooner or later.

The sensitivity of various ecosystems to exposure to acidifying and eutrophying air pollutants has been monitored and mapped for more than 25 years, and European countries coordinate this work through the Coordination Centre for Effects (CCE) of the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP).

Recently, the CCE has developed a new set of maps, using updated information from the countries’ national experts. By comparing the critical load maps with data on air pollutant deposition, the CCE has also produced maps that show the extent to which European ecosystems are exposed to more air pollutant depositions than they can tolerate in the long term without damage, i.e. where the critical load limits for acidification and eutrophication are exceeded.

This new data shows that the areas at risk are greater than previously assumed – the acidity critical loads are now exceeded in eight per cent of the ecosystems in the EU (7% in the whole of Europe). The area exposed to nitrogen overload now extends to 75 per cent of EU ecosystems (62% in Europe). See table and maps.

Following emission cuts over the last 40 years in the main acidifying air pollutants, especially sulphur dioxide (SO₂), the area of sensitive ecosystems at risk of acidification in Europe has now shrunk to less than 250,000 square kilometres (km2), nearly eight times smaller than it was in 1980.

Progress is however markedly slower for eutrophication, which is caused by excess nitrogen deposition resulting from emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and ammonia (NH₃). Here the affected area has shrunk by less than 40 per cent over the same time period, and still covers 1.9 million km2.

Table : Area of ecosystems exposed to excess deposition of eutrophying and acidifying air pollutants in 2010 (km2).

Table : Area of ecosystems exposed to excess deposition of eutrophying and acidifying air pollutants in 2010 (km2).

It should be noted that the maps give a snapshot of deposition versus ability to resist at a given point in time – they do not really reflect the environmental situation right now.

Environmental monitoring, experiments and calculations show that there may be considerable time lags, and that the damage that has already been caused by excess air pollutant inputs will persist for decades, in some places even for centuries.

Clearly there is still a long way to go to actually achieve the long-term environmental objectives of the EU’s 7th Environmental Action Programme, one of which is that there should be no exceedance of the critical loads for acidification and eutrophication. The same objective is also enshrined in the CLRTAP Gothenburg Protocol.

The key legal instrument in the EU for cutting emissions of acidifying and eutrophying air pollutants is the National Emissions Ceilings (NEC) directive, which is currently being revised, and negotiations on new emission reduction targets up to 2030 are now ongoing between EU institutions, with the aim of reaching a final compromise by June 2016.

Christer Ågren
Source: Modelling and mapping of the impacts of atmospheric deposition of nitrogen and sulphur:
CCE Status Report 2015. By J. Slootweg, M. Posch, and J-P Hettelingh (eds.). RIVM Report
2015-0193, Coordination Centre for Effects, the Netherlands. Link:

Sea levels could rise 1.3 to 2 metres by 2100

New studies have been published concluding that sea levels could rise far more rapidly than expected in coming decades. The UN’s climate science body had predicted up to a metre of sea level rise this century. But a new study led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research for the first time, combines the two most important estimation methods for future sea level rise and yields a more robust risk range. Sea levels worldwide will likely rise by 50 to 130 centimetres by the end of this century if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced rapidly.

A second study provides the first global analysis of sea level data for the past 3,000 years. It confirms that during the past millennia the sea level has never risen nearly as fast as during the last century. Even if ambitious climate policy follows the 2015 Paris Agreement, sea levels are projected to increase by 20 to 60 centimetres by 2100.

According to a third study, published in the journal Nature, collapsing Antarctic ice sheets are expected to double sea-level rise to two metres by 2100, if carbon emissions
are not cut.

Previously, only the passive melting of Antarctic ice by warmer air and seawater was considered, but the new work added active processes, such as the disintegration of huge ice cliffs.

The Guardian quoted Prof Robert De- Conto, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, who led the work: “this [doubling] could spell disaster for many low-lying cities”.

He said that if global warming was not halted, the rate of sea-level rise would change from millimetres per year to centimetres a year. “At that point it becomes about retreat [from cities], not engineering of defences.”

“Many coastal cities are growing fast as populations rise, and analysis by World Bank and OECD staff has shown that global flood damage could cost them $1 trillion a year by 2050 unless action is taken. The cities most at risk in richer nations include Miami, Boston and Nagoya, while cities in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh and Ivory Coast are among those most in danger in less wealthy countries.”

“The new research follows other recent studies warning of the possibility of ice sheet collapse in Antarctica and suggesting huge sea-level rises. But the new work suggests that major rises are possible within the lifetimes of today’s children, not over centuries.”

Compiled by Reinhold Pape from press releases.


Arctic sea ice extent breaks record low for winter

With the ice cover down to 14.52m sq km, scientists now believe the Arctic is locked onto a course of continually shrinking sea ice

A record expanse of Arctic sea never froze over this winter and remained open water as a season of freakishly high temperatures produced deep – and likely irreversible – changes on the far north.

Scientists at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre said on Monday that the sea ice cover attained an average maximum extent of 14.52m sq km (5.607m sq miles) on 24 March, the lowest winter maximum since records began in 1979.

The low beats a record set only last year of 14.54m sq km (5.612m sq miles), reached on 25 February 2015.

“I’ve never seen such a warm, crazy winter in the Arctic,” said NSIDC director Mark Serreze. “The heat was relentless.”

It was the third straight month of record lows in the sea ice cover, after extreme temperatures in January and February stunned scientists.

The winter months of utter darkness and extreme cold are typically the time of maximum growth in the ice cap, until it begins its seasonal decline in spring.

With the ice cover down to 14.54m sq km, scientists now believe the Arctic is locked onto a course of continually shrinking sea ice – and that is before the 2016 melt season gets underway.

“If we are starting out very low that gives a jump on the melt season,” said Rick Thoman, the climate science manager for the National Weather Service’s Alaska region.

“For the last few years, we have had extremely low ice cover in the summer. That means a lot more solar energy absorbed by the darker open water. That heat tends to carry over from year to year.”

After this winter’s record ice lows, scientists now expect more than ever that the Arctic will be entirely ice-free in the summer months within 20 or 25 years.

“Sometime in the 2030s or 2040s time frame, at least for a few days, you won’t have ice out there in the dead of summer,” said Dr John Walsh, chief scientist of the International Arctic Research Centre.

Those changes are already evident on the ground. In 1975, there were only a few days a year when ships could move from Barrow to Prudhoe Bay off the north coast of Alaska.
Now that window lasts months.

The Arctic will always have ice in the winter months, Walsh said. But it will be thinner and more fragile than the multi-year ice, and less reliable for indigenous peoples who rely on the ice as winter transport routes or hunting platforms.

“It’s not just about how many hundreds of thousands of square kilometres covered by the ice. It’s about the quality of that ice,” Thoman said.

The extent of ice cover is a critical indicator of the changes taking place in the Arctic – but the shrinking of the polar ice carries sweeping consequences for lower latitudes as well.

The bright white snow-covered ice reflects about 85% of sunlight back into the atmosphere, compared to the dark surfaces of the open water which absorb most of the heat energy.

“Basically the polar regions are the refrigerator for the Earth,” said Dr Donald Perovich, a researcher at Dartmouth University. “They are extremely important for being able to keep the Arctic colder, and in turn help keep the rest of the planet colder.”

Since 1980, however, the summer sea ice cover over the Arctic has gone into a drastic decline, from 7.8m sq km to 4.4m sq km in 2012, before rebounding slightly. “It would be as if the entire United States east of the Mississippi melted away plus the states from Minnesota down to Louisiana, past North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma. It’s huge,” Perovich said.

This winter scientists said the Arctic freeze stalled early on, across the polar seas. The sea ice extent was exceptionally low both in the Barents and the Bering seas – which in past years has been one of the most prolific producers of ice. And it was thinner, especially in the Beaufort sea north of Alaska, scientists said.

There were a number of causes, in addition to the record high temperatures and carry-over effects of earlier ice loss.

The El Niño weather system produced more warming, and the Arctic saw influxes of exceptionally warm water from the Pacific as well as the Atlantic side.

In any event, Walsh said it was becoming increasingly clear the Arctic would never return to its previous frozen state, even if there are small gains in ice cover in a single year.

“The balance is shifting to the point where we are not going back to the old regime of the 1980s and 1990s,” he said. “Every year has had less ice cover than any summer since 2007. That is nine years in a row that you would call unprecedented. When that happens you have to start thinking that something is going on that is not letting the system go back to where it used to be.”

Plastic to outweigh fish in oceans by 2050, study warns

At least 8 million tons of plastics find their way into the ocean every year – equal to one truckload every minute

Plastic trash will outweigh fish in the oceans by 2050 unless the world takes drastic action to recycle the materials, a report warned Tuesday on the opening day of the annual gathering of the rich and powerful in the snow-clad Swiss ski resort of Davos.

An overwhelming 95 percent of plastic packaging, worth $80 billion to $120 billion a year, is lost to the economy after a single use, according to a global study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which promotes recycling.

The study, which drew on multiple sources, proposed setting up a new system to slash the leaking of plastics into nature, especially the oceans, and to find alternatives to crude oil and natural gas as the raw material of plastic production.

At least 8 million tons of plastics find their way into the ocean every year — equal to one garbage truckload every minute, said the report, which included analysis by the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment.

“If no action is taken, this is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050,” it said, with packaging estimated to account for the largest share of the pollution.

Available research estimates that there are more than 150 million tons of plastics in the ocean today.

“In a business-as-usual scenario, the ocean is expected to contain 1 ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish by 2025, and by 2050, more plastics than fish,” it said.

“This report demonstrates the importance of triggering a revolution in the plastics industrial ecosystem and is a first step to showing how to transform the way plastics move through our economy,” said Dominic Waughray of the World Economic Forum, which jointly released the report and is the host of the annual talks in Davos.

“To move from insight to large-scale action, it is clear that no one actor can work on this alone. The public [and] private sector and civil society all need to mobilize to capture the opportunity of the new circular plastics economy,” he said.

A sweeping change in the use of plastic packaging would require cooperation worldwide among consumer goods companies, plastic packaging producers, businesses involved in collection, cities, policymakers and other organizations, said the report. It proposed creating an independent coordinating body for the initiative.

“Plastics are the workhorse material of the modern economy, with unbeaten properties. However, they are also the ultimate single-use material,” said Martin Stuchtey of the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment. “Growing volumes of end-of-use plastics are generating costs and destroying value to the industry.”

Reusable plastics could become a valuable commodity in a “circular economy” that relied on recycling, Stuchtey said. “Our research confirms that applying those circular principles could spark a major wave of innovation, with benefits for the entire supply chain.”

Al Jazeera and Agence France-Presse

Giant icebergs play ‘major role’ in ocean carbon cycle

Giant icebergs could be responsible for the processes that absorb up to 20% of the carbon in the Southern Ocean’s carbon cycle, a study suggests.

Researchers say meltwater from these vast blocks of ice release nutrients into the surrounding waters, triggering plankton blooms that absorb the carbon.

Described as the first study of its kind, the authors examined satellite data between 2003 and 2013.

The results have been published in the journal Nature Geoscience.

A team of scientists gathered data from 175 satellite images that tracked the passage of 17 giant icebergs (measuring more than 18km/11 miles in length) through the open waters of the ocean surrounding Antarctica.

Writing in their paper, the team observed: “We detect substantially enhanced chlorophyll levels, typically over a radius at least 4-10 times the iceberg’s length, which can persist for more than a month following passage of a giant iceberg.”

They added that these findings suggest “this area of influence is more than an order of magnitude (more than 10 times) larger than that found for sub-kilometre scale icebergs.”

Co-author Grant Bigg from the University of Sheffield, UK, said the results showed that giant icebergs had “much bigger plumes of phytoplankton (microscopic plant-like free-floating organisms) production in the ocean as a result of fertilisation by the iron that is in the meltwater… than we had previously expected.

“This means that the role of giant icebergs in the Southern Ocean carbon cycle is bigger than we had previously suspected,” Prof Bigg told BBC News.

When there is an increase in the availability of nutrients in the water, there is a corresponding increase in phytoplankton production.

These tiny organisms behave in a similar manner to plants on land, meaning that in order to obtain the necessary energy to grow and reproduce, they undergo a process of photosynthesis, which includes the absorption of carbon dioxide. When the phytoplankton dies, it sinks to the ocean floor, locking away the carbon it had absorbed.

‘Carbon storage’

Prof Bigg explained that about 3,000 giant icebergs were present in the Southern Ocean at any one time, allowing the team to calculate how much carbon was being locked away in the depths of the ocean as a result of the plankton blooms triggered by the nutrient-rich meltwater from giant icebergs.

“We estimate that giant icebergs account for between 10% and 20% of the actual vertical rate of carbon going from the surface to the deep (Southern) Ocean,” he suggested.

“If giant iceberg calving increases this century as expected, this negative feedback on the carbon cycle may become more important than we previously thought.”

Plankton scientist Dr Richard Kirby, who was not involved in this study, observed: “The phytoplankton at the sunlit surface of the sea has played a central role in the sequestration of carbon over millennia to affect the atmospheric concentration of this greenhouse gas, and so the Earth’s climate.

“This interesting paper shows how much we still have to learn about these microscopic organisms, and how a changing climate may affect them, and also the food web they support.”

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of dead fish wash up in river connected to ‘tainted’ reservoir


Shoals of dead fish washed up on the banks of Shing Mun River last week, around the same time as Greenpeace released data indicating that five of Hong Kong’s biggest drinking water reservoirs are tainted with a potentially carcinogenic chemical, perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs). Lovely!

Mathematically-challenged local media have estimated the number of dead fish at anything from 400 to a staggering 10,000.

Oriental Daily reports Sha Tin district councilwoman Scarlett Pong as saying that two different tests (biochemical oxygen demand and chemical oxygen demand, FYI) of the river’s water in recent years showed elevated levels of pollutants. Pong went on to say that she has already complained to the Environmental Protection Department.

While the water quality of Shing Mun river has reportedly improved since 1993, it is occasionally threatened by the polluted waters of Tolo Harbour, which backflow into the river during high tide. Shing Mun River has multiple tributaries, one of which apparently flows into Shing Mun Reservoir.

According to Hong Kong Free Press, Greenpeace said that Shing Mun Reservoir tested positively for PFCs, although it reportedly showed a lower concentration that some other reserviors as it collects rainwater and mountain stream water.

PFCs are supposedly commonly used in the production of outdoor consumer items, like weatherproof membranes, as they are both water and oil-repellent.

Independent research finds Hong Kong beaches more contaminated than government says

Hazardous levels of sewage-based bacteria have been found at beaches the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) says are clean, according to testing carried out by University of Hong Kong (HKU) researchers.

Water and sand samples collected by marine science students at Golden Beach and Clear Water Bay Second Beach contained quantities of enterococcus exceeding levels considered safe in other countries, according to the research paper published in Marine Pollution Bulletin last month.

Enterococcus indicates the presence of faecal matter which can incubate various health-threatening microbes, leading to gastroenteritis, pneumonia, hepatitis and infections of the skin, eyes and ears.

The samples were collected in September and October last year. During that period, the EPD graded the water at the two beaches as “good”, its best available rating.

EPD map with contaminated beaches highlighted. Photo:

EPD map with contaminated beaches highlighted. Photo:

Researcher Kylie Yuen Ka-lai said the results were a wake-up call. “If the government says a beach is in good condition and you can swim there, people will go for it,” she said. “But we shouldn’t trust this kind of thing so easily.”

The contradictory findings result from different screening methods. Since 1986, the EPD has screened beach water for E coli, which it says is in accordance with World Health Organization guidelines.

But the WHO revised its guidelines in 2003 and now recommends screening marine water for enterococcus, which has higher resistance to salt and UV light, making it a more reliable measure of beach water contamination.

The US Environmental Protection Agency follows the WHO code, as do authorities in Europe, the UK and Australia. If US standards were followed in Hong Kong, the beaches tested would have been closed to swimmers during the sampling period and potentially for much of the year.

At Golden Beach, the EPD reported an average of 12 colony-forming units of E coli per 100 millilitres, well under its objective of 180 CFUs. By contrast, the HKU researchers found 41 CFUs of enterococcus, slightly above the US EPA’s objective of 35 CFUs.

The divergence at Clear Water Bay Second Beach was more striking. The EPD detected just 7 CFUs of E coli before it declared the beach safe, whereas the HKU researchers measured an imposing 124 CFUs of enterococcus per 100 millilitres – three and a half times the US objective.

“We cannot dance around the discrepancy,” said David Baker, research supervisor and a professor in the School of Biological Sciences at HKU. “I can’t imagine [the EPD] would refute the use of enterococcus when almost all of the scientific literature is promoting it today.”

Patrick Lei Chee-kwong, principal environment protection officer in the EPD’s Water Policy and Science Group, said the EPD has collected enterococcus data for almost five years. But the data has not been shared with the public or the scientific community and does not feed into beach water quality ratings.

Lei admitted enterococcus was tracking more strongly recently, but said there was no locally-produced evidence linking enterococcus with human illness and more research was needed. The EPD has not issued a press release on its marine water quality research since May 2010.

Hong Kong’s beaches attracted almost 10 million visitors last year. The two beaches in the HKU study are among the four that are open to swimmers all year round. Golden Beach is famed for its imported Hainanese sand, while the EPD website describes Clear Water Bay Second as “one of the most popular and finest beaches in Hong Kong”.

Limited testing by the HKU researchers found four other beaches relatively uncontaminated: the Hong Kong island trio of Repulse Bay, Stanley Main Beach and Shek O, and Butterfly Beach in the New Territories.

While the researchers used the same water sampling methods as the EPD, they also measured sedimentary bacteria, which the EPD does not. In the sands underwater at around waist depth, they found around four times as much enterococcus as in the water.

“The bacteria likes to adhere to sediments,” said Yuen. “If there is wave action or tidal action, it re-suspends the sediments. The bacteria then comes off the sediments and floats in the water column, where people are swimming.”

Despite the unsettling results, Baker said initiatives like the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme have had a positive impact on some of Hong Kong’s marine waters, and the government should view beach water quality as an opportunity for improvement.

“I think the government really shouldn’t be afraid of this, because they only stand to look good,” he said. “If they continue to invest in waste water management, and they continue to be transparent about the water quality data, then the trajectory is only going to be positive. It’s only going to improve over time.”

Bridge project on man-made island breached environmental permit, says Hong Kong green group

Ernest Kao

A green group claims the Highways Department violated the conditions of an environmental permit for a man-made island that forms part of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge project by failing to declare significant changes in reclamation work.

Green Sense says that the location plans it had inspected in the nine amended environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports clearly showed that cylindrical steel cells – sunk into the seabed in a circular form and filled with debris – were to be used along the entire length of the seawall structure.

But two years ago the department’s contractor had begun using rubble mounds in some of the seawalls that may have caused more marine pollution, without noting the change in any of its nine amended assessments.

Green Sense chief executive Roy Tam Hoi-pong said this could amount to a breach of the EIA ordinance, which states that any variation to a report must prove “no material change to the environmental impact”.

Tam added that the Highways Department should not have let the contractor do this just to speed up work.

He also said the Environmental Protection Department had failed in its job to check the Highways Department.

“It is clear that this was a major change and if the EPD had allowed this, then we believe it to be a serious mishap and a defeat in the ordinance’s purpose.”

Tam said he would write to the Department of Justice urging them to take legal action and called on the relevant departments to take responsibility.

Last week the Highways Department admitted that flaws in the reclamation process were the reason part of the artificial island had drifted up to seven metres, sparking concerns of safety and cost overruns.

It said the movements were due to the use of steel seawalls, which eliminate the need for dredging, being used in the city for the first time.

The Highways Department said it had consulted the EPD and both methods were “non-dredge methods” with less environmental impact. “The EPD considered that the concerned amendments on works details involved no change to the … EIA report and no variation to the [permit] would be required.”

Environment minister Wong Kam-sing also said the project complied with permit requirements. He said silt curtains would help keep sludge from spewing into surrounding waters.

Hong Kong pollution fight can be model for world, says environmentalist

Efforts in Hong Kong to reduce air and water pollution can serve as a model for the rest of the world, a leading environmentalist believes.

“Hong Kong is an extraordinarily important city for the world, for financial and intellectual reasons. If we can come up with solutions here, then that model can be exported to the other parts of the world,” said Peter Seligmann, founder and chief executive of Conservation International (CI). The charity, set up in 1987, opened an office in the city this week.

Seligmann, who is in Hong Kong for CI’s local launch, said the state of the environment in China was a concern for the world because of the number of people it affected – nearly a fifth of the world’s population – and China’s impact on global air and water quality.

Conservation International plans to conduct a case study in Hong Kong for its new Freshwater Health Index.

“It will work much like a Dow Jones index, tracking and recording the health of freshwater sources,” says Seligmann. “It will provide concrete metrics to governments so they can make smarter decisions.… It will show any depreciation in water quality so we can find the causes and take action to solve the problems.”

If you’re a government and the air quality is so bad that people can’t breathe or the water is tainted and undrinkable, it really is a concern for the stability of communities

Peter Seligmann

The format follows the group’s Ocean Health Index, an assessment tool that scientifically measures key elements of oceanic health around the world. Set up in 2012, the index has been embraced by governments including those of China, the United States, Brazil and Colombia.

Seligmann says environmental deterioration has become a matter of “life and death” for companies, governments and communities and is a reason why governments and organisations are much more receptive today.

“A food business that is selling poisoned food will go out of business. If a fisheries business can’t find fish, it goes under. If you’re a government and the air quality is so bad that people can’t breathe or the water is tainted and undrinkable, it really is a concern for the stability of communities.”

Jude Wu, Conservation International’s managing director for Hong Kong, said the charity sought to balance the demands of nature and development and ensure wise decisions are made today to secure a better future for the world.

“That future is attained by securing the parts of nature that Hong Kong depends on within and outside its borders,” Wu said. “Hong Kong is one of the mega urban centres of the world … but people often don’t think that Hong Kong is extremely dependent on nature. The city imports 80 per cent of its water and 90 per cent of its food.

“Our vision is to work with partners, businesses and governments to ensure the city’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will have clean and abundant fresh water, clean and abundant food.”

Wu said education is key, with CI looking to boost green thinking among the city’s next generation of leaders. “We aim to work with schools and students in Hong Kong and show them how they can become change agents.”

It has teamed up with the Chinese International School to set up an Environmental Heroes Leadership Programme for the next generation of conservationists and has established a partnership with CSR Asia to advance Hong Kong’s leadership in corporate environmental sustainability.

“When living in a mega city it’s easy to forget that we are part of nature and not apart from nature.”

Conservation International is working in 30 countries around the world, including the Asia Pacific region.

In 2007 it established a fund in Sichuan province offering incentives to provide sustainable livelihoods and fresh water to villagers along the upper reaches of the Yangtze river. In 2014, it helped the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia pass legislation to create the Natural Park of the Coral Sea, the world’s largest protected area, covering 1.3 million square kilometres of ocean and remote islands. The park’s waters generate 2,500 to 3,000 tonnes of fish each year, providing food to 250,000 people, and help make the territory’s economy sustainable.

In Indonesia, manta rays, a major tourist draw, have been declining in number due to fishing. Manta rays are often killed for their gill plates, which are in high demand in China, where they are used in a health tonic in traditional Chinese medicine.

Conservation International and partners provided research showing that a single manta ray is worth about US$1 million in tourism revenue over the course of its lifetime, benefiting the community more than if caught and killed. This data helped persuade the Indonesian government to ban the fishing of manta rays in its waters – nearly six million square kilometres – which contain one of the world’s largest populations of the giant fish.

Source URL (modified on Apr 14th 2015, 7:07pm):