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2021-05-18 09:25:26

Inspectors from China’s top environmental authority have called out a large state-owned port company in the southern Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region for killing tens of thousands of mangroves along the coast and ignoring five years’ worth of government warnings.

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) announced Monday that an investigation had found that a port construction project in the Beibu Gulf operated by a subsidiary of the Beibu Gulf Port Group had killed over 37,000 mangrove plants spanning 257 mu (42 acres) of shoreline.

“Mangroves are a critical part of the coastal ecosystems in southern China,” Zeng Congsheng, a retired professor of marine geography at Fujian Normal University in eastern China, told Sixth Tone. “These plants can form a barrier against erosion and provide organisms with a habitat to thrive.”

According to the MEE, the Beibu Gulf Port Group subsidiary had discharged substandard wastewater containing high concentrations of kaolinite, a clay mineral, since 2017 as part of a port construction project. The kaolinite had coated the mangrove roots, impeding absorption and photosynthesis and killing tens of thousands of them over the years.

After the company submitted its construction proposal in 2016, an MEE inspection team had warned it to properly treat its wastewater in order to protect the mangrove forests nearby. However, the MEE said the company not only ignored this order, but also actively uprooted over 160 plants.

“Destroying mangrove forests will certainly disrupt the balance of ecosystems and impact biodiversity,” said Zeng, the retired marine geography professor.

To stop the company from destroying the environment, local authorities issued six suspension orders beginning in 2019. The operation wasn’t halted until May the following year, however, after local environmental authorities had reprimanded the subsidiary for flagrant abuses.

On Monday, Beibu Gulf Port Group said in a statement that it will address the environmental problems with “an iron-like determination” and follow standards set by the authorities.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: An aerial view of a mangrove forest near Beibu Gulf Port in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nov. 28, 2018. IC)