The State Key Laboratory of Marine Pollution (SKLMP) at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has been endorsed by the United Nations (UN) to initiate a ten-year “Global Estuaries Monitoring (GEM)” Programme (www.globalestuaries.org) to collect and study environmental pollutants in the estuaries of major cities around the globe so as to formulate a long-term policy of promoting clean estuaries.
It is the only proposal from Hong Kong endorsed by the UN in this first round of application.
The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO announced on “World Oceans Day” on 8 June 2021 that after rigorously reviewing 250 proposals submitted by more than 50 countries or regions around the world, only 66 proposals were selected as “Ocean Decade Actions” under the “UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030)”. The project initiated by CityU is the only endorsed proposal from Hong Kong and one of two endorsed “Ocean Decade Actions” from China.
Professor Kenneth Leung Mei-yee, Director of SKLMP and Chair Professor of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in the Department of Chemistry at CityU said, “As the population grows in coastal areas, global estuaries are facing unprecedented challenges associated with water pollution. CityU will establish a global monitoring network with partners from all over the world to collect samples and conduct experiments to identify pollution hotspots and priority contaminants in order to recommend and promote the best strategies to create cleaner estuaries.”
The collaborative partners of the GEM Programme include, Professor Alistair Boxall from the University of York, UK, Professor Martina Doblin from the Sydney Institute of Marine Science (SIMS), Australia, Professor Bryan Brooks from Baylor University, US, and Dr Yuan Shen from the State Key Laboratory of Marine Environmental Science (MEL) in Xiamen University, China.
At present, over 100,000 chemical substances are being used in our daily life and industries, and many of them will eventually be released into the estuaries through different pathways. Nevertheless, there is a lack of information available around the globe concerning the occurrence and environmental risks of chemical contaminants in urbanised estuaries, especially those in Africa, South America, and in some coastal areas in Southeast Asia and Oceania.
The GEM Programme led by Professor Leung will develop standardised methods to establish a global monitoring network to collect seawater samples from urbanised estuaries worldwide, extract and quantify priority chemical contaminants, analyse and compare the differences of water quality among different estuaries and provide training opportunities to build capacity for pollution monitoring.
The first phase of the study will be launched in May 2022 in major urbanised estuaries in the southern hemisphere, and extended to the northern hemisphere in November of the same year. It is expected that about 100 countries or regions will participate. The research team expects to publish the report after the completion of the first phase in 2023, revealing the pollution status of global estuaries, thus identifying the concerned estuaries and strategies for improvements at an earlier stage.
CityU has allocated HK$4 million to support the research. The team will also solicit support from the “World Harbour Project” with members from 27 coastal cities, the UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Sub-Commission for the Western Pacific (IOC/WESTPAC), and the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC), and will invite top researchers from all over the world to join and support the initiative.