Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying led a team of officials in overseeing a clean-up operation at two beaches on Lantau Island on Sunday, expressing concern at the growing amount of rubbish washing into Hong Kong.
Following the on-site inspection, Leung said the government will discuss the issue with authorities in Guangdong, which is believed to be the source of much of the trash flowing into Hong Kong waters and spoiling the beaches.
Leung’s trip came after the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) confirmed last week that it had received reports of serious littering at multiple beaches, including those at Deep Water Bay, Shek O and Po Toi Island, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported.
More than 64 tons of garbage was said to have been collected from various beaches in the previous week.
Most of the garbage came from the mainland, observers say, noting the discarded packaging, plastic bottles, diapers, rubber slippers and tableware bearing Chinese markings.
Meanwhile, a government spokesman also pointed out that a study on marine garbage last year found that more than 80 percent of the litter originated from Hong Kong due to seashore and recreational activities.
People need to change their habits if they want clean shores, the spokesman said.
After visiting Cheung Sha beach, Leung and other officials went to nearby Shui Hau Wan to pick up garbage there.
Among those who accompanied Leung in the clean-up efforts were Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Cheung Kin-chung, Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Chan Ka-keung, Secretary for Development Chan Mo-po, and Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah.
A 45-minute operation helped clear a total of 1,350kg of garbage, according to a government spokesman.
Some people noted that garbage had been piled up by staff from a contract cleaning company before the officials put it in the garbage bags.
Environment Secretary Wong said Hong Kong and Guangdong will jointly tackle the garbage problem through the established coordination mechanism.
While it remains to seen how effective the mechanism would be, experts warn that Hong Kong could see more marine garbage wash in from the mainland.
Sea Shepherd, an ocean conservation group, said in a Facebook post that a garbage hill has been spotted on Wai Lingding Island, which is located near the estuary of Pearl River and only a few miles from Lantau, and that it is now at the risk of disintegrating.
Jackie Wu, a senior diving instructor, was quoted as saying that the garbage on the island, once it falls into sea, might flow to Hong Kong under the forces of undersea current and wind.
Data on the sea current forecast system of the Hydrographic Office of the Marine Department suggests that water currents and wind directions during the coming weekend might lead to marine garbage washing up on beaches of Lantau and southern Hong Kong Island.
Some concern groups focusing on Lantau have criticized Leung’s visit, saying that it was nothing but a publicity stunt.
They pointed out that the Leung administration has never had any effective policy to deal with the marine garbage problem and eliminate it at the source, Apple Daily reported.
Chu Hon-keung, a director at environmental group Green Earth, said the government needs to do much more than just pick up garbage from the beaches.
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