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Experts warn of eco-disaster caused by mounting pollution in waters off Far East

By Anna Liesowska
20 May 2015

Oil slicks, sewage, industrial waste and rubbish floating sea is harming wildlife and could lead to marine crisis.

Ecologists have expressed concern about the amount of sewage and industrial waste being pumped into Amur Bay, at Vladivostok, in Primorsky Krai. Picture: IA Deita

A stretch of water once home to an array of wildlife is facing an environmental disaster if measures are not put in place to stop pollution, experts have warned.

Ecologists have expressed concern about the amount of sewage and industrial waste being pumped into Amur Bay, at Vladivostok, in Primorsky Krai.

As much as 500,000 cubic metres of sewage is being dumped into the water every single day, with additional problems from oil leaks and a lack of storm water treatment facilities.

Last week a meeting organised by the Public Advisory Council on Environmental Safety heard numerous experts say the region’s marine life is in grave and imminent danger.

Dr Nikolay Shapkin, a professor at the Far Eastern Federal University, reported that the chemical pollution in some places exceeds the maximum allowed by hundreds of times. This, he said, was a result of the discharge from nearby large industrial enterprises which do not have their own treatment plants.

He said: 'They [the industrial enterprises] are more profitable paying fines than putting money towards wastewater treatment, so the marine environment gets a huge amount of substances harmful to both humans and marine life. The main danger is that their concentration is increasing.'

Amur Bay polluted

Pollution of the Amur Bay. View from space. Picture: Boris Preobrazhensky

Dr Vladimir Rakov, the chief researcher of the Ilichev Pacific Oceanology Institute, said the eco-system of Amur Bay is degrading at a dangerous pace. He said: 'In recent years the situation has changed dramatically, and the biodiversity of the bay has been reduced.

'As a result of man-made factors many species of fish which previously lived here in abundance have disappeared as have populations of bearded seal, sea lions, and some bivalve mollusks.'

With a population of 600,000 Vladivostok is located at the head of Golden Horn Bay, not that far from the borders with China and North Korea.

It is currently home to the Russian Pacific fleet, and its location means it is perfectly placed to aid the President’s pursuit of new stronger trade ties with Asian nations.

Next year Vladivostok will become Russia's first 'free port', an event that could potentially worsen the environmental problem because of a higher volume of shipping traffic.

During a recent visit to Primorsky Krai on April 27, Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev - the presidential envoy in the Far Eastern Federal District - criticised the state of the waters. He also warned it could even hinder the free port project. He said: 'All the bay is covered with an oily film. It is joyless to see, with gasoline, kerosene, and other trash swimming about.

'The bay must be clean. Here we want to build a free port with a special federal law to create conditions for business people.'

Amur Bay polluted


Amur Bay polluted


Amur Bay polluted

'All the bay is covered with an oily film. It is joyless to see, with gasoline, kerosene, and other trash swimming about.' Pictures: IA Deita 

Boris Preobrazhensky, chief researcher of the Pacific Institute of Geography of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Science, said the last detailed analysis of the waters was in almost 30 years ago.

He said: 'In 1986 we made the first history map of the seabed of the Amur Bay and estimated its ecological condition. At that time we found that 500,000 cubic metres of sewage per day go from Vladivostok to Amur Bay.

'That was in 1986. How much goes in now, given that the city and its population has increased, we can only speculate but obviously much more than that.'

The honoured ecologist said the vast quantities of pollution has led to the bay being unable to 'breathe', with any wildlife including organisms struggling to survive. He also warned that it is likely to pose health problems for people living nearby and make swimming dangerous owing to the numerous bacteria and viruses present in the water.

Government officials have admitted there is a major problem in the region, but have so far been unable to find a solution.

Alexander Korshenko, head of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, said one of the major stumbling blocks was that there is no single operator in the seaport, with the waters having federal jurisdiction.

He said: 'There is a proposal to define a single operator to monitor the ecological status of the bay but not as now, when ship owners have contracts with whom they see fit, and pay only when trash is near their own berths.

'We have offered all ship owners and owners of businesses located on the coast to pay a single operator a single tariff. Thus the operator can be Rosmorport.'

Comments (3)

Amor Bay and Vladivostok look very similar to the Vigo Ría in NW Spain. Here there was a large plan for waste and sewage treatment during the 90s.
Enrique, Spain
01/06/2015 08:17
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0
A new modern pulp and paper plant is necessary for the development of the Far East, using oxygin instead of chlorine.
Enrique, Spain
01/06/2015 08:11
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0
Russia needs a national plan forma waste and sewage treatment plants. That plan could create a large Russian company in that área which is oye of the most relevant for Western construction companies (also desalination plants)
Enrique, Spain
01/06/2015 08:07
0
0
1

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