Report blames environmental degradation on ‘tourism pressure’

The government has released the annual report on the State of the Environment of Macau 2017. The document, issued by the Environmental Protection Bureau (DSPA), analyses the environmental conditions of the region in the past year and compares it with results from across the last decade. The report indicates that most of the main environmental performance indicators fell, with the rapporteurs pointing the finger at “tourism pressure” as the main factor contributing to the degradation of environmental conditions.

The report lists factors such as the “economic recovery and the visible increase in the number of tourists as well as the intensity of tourism, the consumption of electricity and water resources, among others,” which create “challenges to deal with in terms of atmospheric environment, solid waste management and the aquatic environment.”

Across the eight chapters and over 80 pages of the report, the DSPA analyzed the results from six main indicators such as the atmospheric environment. These include factors such as air quality, pollutant emissions, and electricity consumption.

In the “atmospheric environment” chapter, the bureau recorded fewer “good” or “moderate” air quality days in 2017 than in 2016, with a special mention for the air quality in Taipa Island. Aside from one day registered at a “very unhealthy” level, it also saw the number of “good” or “moderate” days drop significantly, followed by a hike in “unhealthy” levels, which registered a record of 28 days (a three-fold increase on the 2016 results). Similar results were recorded in all the other stations of the Peninsula and Islands, with all of them registering more days of “unhealthy” air quality in 2017 than in 2016.

The report notes also a growth in the concentrations of PM10 particles, which increased by 15 percent in the Macau peninsula and about 4 percent in Taipa. The report also registers a drop in the type of PM2.5 particles in all stations with the exception of Taipa, which registered an increase of 4.1 percent.

Another area of significant concern regarding the air quality in Taipa was the hike in Ozone levels, which exceeded the levels of the previous year by 26.3 percent.

According to the DSPA, the proportions of the emission sources have been following an identical pattern over the last few years. The major contributors to air pollution continue to be land transportation and local electricity production (with the exception of ammonia which is primarily produced from wastewater treatment plants).

Lead emissions by the trade industry, household consumption and services industry surged by 120 percent. Lead is a heavy metal that affects the air quality and water resources.

Regarding the marine environment, the quality of drinking water in 2017 was said to have maintained a low salinity level and the total coliforms level of the water supply networks complied with the standards of the law.

Together with the concerns noted by the DSPA regarding the increase in water consumption led by the commercial sector, the report adds that Macau registered a lower percentage of rainfall in 2017, by 23.7 percent less than in 2016.

Although the growth of consumption was noted in all areas, the higher effect was noticed in the Cotai area (an increase of 6 percent), where the major hotel units are located.

According to the report, the quality of coastal waters in 2017 was generally identical to that of 2016 with a special note regarding the evaluation index of non-metallic products, which still exceeds the standard value. At the same time, there were increases of different degrees in eutrophication levels recorded at various monitoring points compared to 2016.

Solid waste management was another topic of concern in 2017, registering an increase in the total amount of urban solid waste as well as the amount of urban solid waste per capita, the amount of special and hazardous waste, and the number of vehicles scrapped.
Such values continued to grow in 2017, although the DSPA registered a decrease in the quantity of waste from construction materials that had been targeted with various waste reduction measures.
Typhoon Hato was also attributed as a cause of the significant increase in waste collected, the report says. The super-typhoon was also the cause for the substantial decrease in the number of trees, contributing to a slight decrease of Macau green area per capita.

Noise levels were also recorded poorly, especially at the Ecological Areas Station (in the surroundings of Lotus Flower Border).
The DSPA noted that the noises produced by social life, road traffic and construction are primary contributors.

“In 2017 there was a clear increase in the number of noise-related complaints compared to 2016. According to the results of the general environmental noise survey conducted in 2017, it is estimated that about 50 percent of the total population of Macau is exposed to outdoor noise exceeding 65 dB.,” the report reads.

The awareness and the increase of population participation in activities related to environmental protection is, in fact, one of the only positive aspects noted in the report, with the government noting that more people and companies have showed interest in participation in different programs such as the “Macau Green Hotel Awards” and others that grant environmental certification. RM

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