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Cablegate: Limits On Research Capacity for South China's Aquatic

VZCZCXRO8744
RR RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHGZ #0195/01 0910918
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 310918Z MAR 08
FM AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7010
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEAEPA/HQ EPA WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI//J00/J2/J3/J5//

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 GUANGZHOU 000195

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/CM AND OES/PCI
EPA FOR OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV ECON TBIO CH
SUBJECT: LIMITS ON RESEARCH CAPACITY FOR SOUTH CHINA'S AQUATIC
ECOSYSTEMS


1. (SBU) Summary: For south China, evaluating the severity of
pollution in its various aquatic ecosystems is a daunting task made
more difficult by internal factors such as excessive bureaucracy and
territorial attitudes among researchers. Agencies, institutions,
and even individual researchers generally view their data as
valuable "property," which they are often unwilling to share with
other scientists. Rigid bureaucratic jurisdictions make it
difficult and sometimes impossible for scientists to study
conditions in areas that fall outside their normal area of
authority. There is a lack of large-scale, long-term studies and
datasets, such as comprehensive data on contaminants or catalogues
of the species that live in the region's aquatic ecosystems. In
addition, environmental agencies and academic institutions face a
shortage of qualified toxicologists and trained risk assessors.
More publication of scientific studies in English would also improve
cooperation with researchers and institutions outside China. End
summary.

2. (SBU) Environmental scientists and regulators in south China face
many challenges, some of their own making, in monitoring,
researching and assessing the region's riverine and coastal aquatic
ecosystems. Through meetings with researchers and officials at two
state environmental and aquatic science research laboratories, the
Guangdong Center for Disease Control and a leading university
research institute specializing in assessing harmful algae and
aquatic ecosystems, ConGen's EPA science fellow identified several
obstacles impeding the development of south China's environmental
research capacity.

Show Me the Money!
------------------

3. (SBU) In China, the idea that research data should be exchanged
freely among scientists and agencies is not widely accepted. One
internationally-renown researcher in aquatic pollutants told us that
one of the reasons he prefers to do research in Guangdong is because
he has friends here who are willing to share their research data
without requiring monetary compensation. He claimed that such
exchanges would be impossible for him in other parts of China where
he lacks personal connections. Because data are not usually shared
outside one's own laboratory, agency, or institution, environmental
scientists frequently have to generate their own research data
internally and from scratch. This results in wasteful,
time-consuming duplication of effort and makes it more difficult to
assess problems and changes in large-scale ecosystems.

Contaminants Go with the Flow, Bureaucracies Do Not
--------------------------------------------- ------

4. (SBU) Not only do researchers and regulators refuse to share
access to their data, sometimes they refuse to share access to the
environment itself. Pollutants in the Chinese aquatic environment,
like everywhere else in the world, do not recognize political
boundaries. But in China, tracking or assessing pollutants can
often be beset with jurisdictional obstacles. It is difficult to
obtain permission to sample areas outside one's administrative
authority without first seeking approval through several layers of
bureaucracy. In some cases, permission is denied entirely. Many
scientific institutions have these types of geographic areas of
authority just as government agencies each have their own
jurisdiction.

Lacking the Big Pictures
------------------------

5. (SBU) When China awards funding for scientific research on
environmental pollution, it too often gives stipends to a large
number of individual scientists who pursue their own independent
research with little coordination. This can lead to excessive
fragmentation of research and impede efforts to identify the
greatest environmental problems and track changes.

6. (SBU) These factors frustrate efforts to design and conduct
large-scale, comprehensive environmental monitoring studies of very
large and complex aquatic ecosystems like the Pearl River Delta and
its South China Sea interface. For example, south China lacks
comprehensive, reliable databases on contaminants and their effects
over large areas. China has water quality standards and regulations
designed to prohibit discharges of contaminants, such as factory
waste, into rivers; but depending on the area involved, the
enforcement of these regulations is often spotty and fraught with

GUANGZHOU 00000195 002 OF 002


corruption. Designing and conducting consistent and accurate
monitoring programs for water, sediment, fish, and other components
of the aquatic environment could provide critical reference points
to assess enforcement of local regulations and gauge whether those
regulations are adequate.

7. (SBU) In addition, several leading environmental scientists in
south China have suggested that China needs more comprehensive
assessments of large scale pollution-related phenomena using modern
remote sensing tools and techniques such as Environmental Monitoring
and Assessment Programs (EMAP). (Note: EMAP is used extensively by
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to characterize and
track pollution-related changes in large aquatic ecosystems, like
the Pacific Coast, and the Columbia River Basin. End note.) Local
scientists have told us they would like to see this kind of program
for phenomena such as eutrophication, harmful algal blooms, major
point sources, sewage outfalls, factory inputs, dredging,
aquaculture, agriculture, mining, and oil spills, etc. They also
recommend a national EMAP initiative for China, and believe
assistance from the U.S. EPA would be helpful in this effort.

8. (U) China with its rich biodiversity and rapid economic growth is
especially vulnerable to invasive species and the decline of native
species. Research on environmental degradation and competition from
invasive species is still relatively new here. The Pearl River
Delta and South China Sea regions, in particular, have few
up-to-date scholarly accounts identifying and tracking either
endemic, or introduced species of freshwater or marine organisms.
Local scientists have told us that studying taxonomy is currently
unpopular among graduate students, who do not see it as profitable
or a means to gain status. However, without information on how the
aquatic ecosystem is changing over time, it is difficult to assess
environmental impacts of pollutants and the effectiveness of
enforcement efforts.

Lacking Human Capital Too
-------------------------

9. (U) South China has few qualified and experienced toxicologists
and risk assessors able to evaluate impacts of environmental
pollutants on health and environment. Fortunately, increasing
numbers of China's leading environmental scientists participate in
international scientific bodies, such as SETAC (Society for
Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry). However, the 2007 list of
membership of the Society of Toxicology, the largest scientific body
of professional toxicologists in the world, includes only 16
toxicologists from China (Japan has about 116). The American Board
of Toxicology, recognized as the leading international certifying
body for professional toxicologists, currently has no Chinese
members certified as Diplomates (DABT). Japan has 11, Korea 4,
India and Taiwan 2 each, and Singapore has 1.

10. (SBU) In addition to toxicologists, Guangdong and the PRD region
lack trained risk assessors. This lack of capacity challenges local
government efforts to use risk assessment as a basis for regulatory
decisions that impact human health and ecosystem integrity. Chinese
Universities are not yet producing graduates qualified to meet this
shortage and need to further develop curricula in this area.
According to the Guangdong CDC, Chinese biomedical and environmental
health-related agencies are in great need of more risk assessment
training for their physicians, public health scientists, and other
professional staff. Our contacts identified this as another area
where assistance from U.S. agencies such as EPA or U.S. academic
institutions with expertise in toxicology and risk assessment could
be beneficial.

Publishing in English
---------------------

11. (SBU) Chinese scientists also face barriers in cooperating with
international counterparts because too little Chinese environmental
research and data is published in English and made available outside
China. More publication in English would increase foreign interest
in China's environment, foster stronger relationships with foreign
scientists and environmental agencies and facilitate more funding
partnerships.

GOLDBERG

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