Photo: Reuters

Opinion – Marine day-trippers

This week, I saw a video online that gave me a strange feeling I haven’t really been experiencing in the last months. It showed a Chinese white dolphin, the iconic Pearl River Delta animal, frolicking near the waters of Ah-Ma statue in the NAPE riverside.

We’ve all seen a flood of similar videos of wild animals reconquering city streets left empty by social distance measures implemented world over, from dolphins in the Venice water channels to deer in British cities.

They all play into that modern fable-like hope that the ecosystem we so thoroughly destroyed for decades could suddenly recover in just some months of halting our whole economic way of life.

As if ironically a medical existential threat had pushed the pause button into that other environmental existential threat we are so well aware of.

It is undeniable that the local atmosphere has improved after Covid-19 brought the gigantic Chinese industrial and transport activity to a standstill, and that familiar humid dense pollution fog we got used to experiencing in Macau suddenly cleared.

Scientific data also seems to support this as excellent research by the University of Saint Joseph has backed, with data showing the levels of PM2.5 fine particulate concentration have dropped significantly from January to March 2020 in comparison to the previous year of 2019.

Less data is available concerning water quality in the city’s 85 square kilometres maritime area, with local residents already used to previous repeated announcements of wastewater discharges and up-river pollution.

Just some days after that white dolphin sighting, I saw a news that an adult dolphin carcass had been found in the Coloane shore near Tam Kung Temple. Then the next day another was found.

Local marine authorities attributed the possible causes of death to increased offshore constructions and marine shipping.

It seems four white dolphins have been found dead in the city for the last 10 months with numbers in Hong Kong waters believed to be lower than 50.

So basically, this is reality telling us that she doesn’t give a fig about our wishful thinking.

In the last years, large scale developments such as the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge and the Hong Kong airport expansion, coupled with industrial discharges and ferry routes, have greatly impacted the Chinese with dolphins living grounds, and of course of other marine life in the region.

We have all heard many intentions for the development of the Greater Bay Area and the life of its inhabitants, although sometimes we forget about the non-human inhabitants of the area.

The truth is that the scale of our modern lifestyle has been one of the crucial factors that helped not just the appearance of the novel coronavirus but also its quick spread worldwide.

Food supplies and interaction between livestock and wild animals seem to have played a part in helping it make the jump to humans and modern transport lines helped it reach corners of the world the Spanish flu could only dream about.

Now that hopeful signs appear that the pandemic can be controlled, there are more and more calls for a return to normal, even it was normal that got us into this.

Some people might want you to believe that there is no choice between the economy and the environment and that the alternative is either living under smog but rich or poor under clean air. But there is a world in-between. If there’s one thing this dire situation showed us, it is that it is possible to recover our ecosystem.

After all, if the leisure in ‘World Leisure and Entertainment Centre’ is only for tourists, then are we just all just background in this integrated resort SAR?

The only thing that can really change the local usual environment conditions is how much we want to improve the local life quality and how much we’re willing to give away for it. 

We at least have a choice. The dolphins can just wait and see what the monkeys in suits will do.

MNA Editor-in-Chief