Transboundary pollution between Guangdong Province and Hong Kong: Threats to water quality in the Pearl River estuary and their implications for environmental policy and planning

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Authors: Hills, P., Zhang, L. and Liu, J.

Journal: Journal of Environmental Planning and Management

Volume: 41

Issue: 3

Pages: 375-396

ISSN: 0964-0568

DOI: 10.1080/09640569811641

The Pearl River (Zhujiang) is the largest river system in southern China. The river, which is approximately 2200 km long, discharges into the South China Sea through an extensive deltaic area to the west of Hong Kong. Water quality in the river is under threat from a variety of sources associated with industrialization and urbanization in the Pearl River Delta Region (PRDR). Hong Kong's location on the eastern bank of the Pearl River estuary means that the quality of its western marine waters is likely to be increasingly influenced by the Pearl's pollution burden. Little published material exists on pollution in the Pearl River, or the potential impacts of transboundary pollution on marine water quality in Hong Kong. This paper focuses on this issue of transboundary water pollution between the Delta Region and Hong Kong. Specifically, we present the results of a preliminary analysis of water quality data for the Pearl River. The paper demonstrates that the major potential problem affecting the Pearl River is organic pollution, and that the principal sources of pollution affecting the Pearl River estuary, and consequently Hong Kong's western waters, are the Shenzhen River, the upstream Guangzhou section of the Pearl River, and the Dongguan Canal. We estimate that less than 5% of untreated domestic sewage discharges affecting the estuary derive from Hong Kong itself. The paper also discusses the implications of transboundary pollution in the context of environmental policy making in Hong Kong and argues that more extensive and effective co-operation and collaboration between Hong Kong and mainland agencies should be developed to address these concerns.

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