Fiskare i norra Kina tar en paus i sin båt.

Fishermen in northern China whose boat is painted with colour containing environmental toxins. Finding new ways to protects the boats from marine algae is important for a sustainable environment.

Photo: Ge Gong/Reuters/Scanpix

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Sweden helps China replace DDT in boat paints

Published: 7 September 2009 Updated: 27 August 2014

There are 11 million fishing boats in China. Since the 1960s, their hulls have been painted with an anti-fouling paint containing the pollutant DDT. A project supported by Sida has aimed to find other ways of protecting the boats. In early 2009, China took the decision to ban DDT in anti-fouling paints.

The reason for the toxin in the paint is that the boats need to be protected against the growth of marine algae and animals, which form a thick coating on the boats’ hulls. This growth results in the boats having to use more fuel and makes them more difficult to navigate. However, the paint is harmful to the environment.

“The toxin in the paint leaks out and ends up in the seas and the rivers,” says Karin Hanze at the Swedish Chemicals Agency.

She says that Sweden can relate well to the problem because boats in Sweden are also the victim of barnacle growth.

“In Sweden, we have mechanical washes that can be used for pleasure craft,” Hanze says. “On Sweden’s west coast, fishing boats use copper-based anti-fouling paints that are much less toxic than DDT paints. In the Baltic Sea, which is very sensitive, we have additional restrictions on which paints can be used.”

In China, there is a tradition of bringing boats out of the water once or twice per year to paint them. One of the challenges is getting all of the boat owners to realise that the boats do not have to be painted that often.

The project began in 2007 and will continue until 2010. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the Swedish Chemicals Agency are making contributions with financing from Sida. 

A workshop is planned in Beijing in late 2009 about the problem, which Sweden plans to contribute to financially. Overall, Sida has contributed almost SEK 1 million to the project.

Katrin Ottosson at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency is co-ordinating the agency’s work with China’s Ministry for the Environment. She says that everything in China is on such a large scale.

“If you visit a dam, it can take half an hour to get across it by boat,” she says. “Everything in China is bigger than you’ve ever experienced. It takes time to get used to working on a totally different scale.”

Other projects that Sida is supporting to improve the environment in China:

  • A project for the protection of drinking water began in early 2008. This involves producing ecological grounds for assessing the Liujiaxia reservoir in the Gansu province and improving the warning system and crisis management plans for the raw water in the Guanting reservoir in Zhangjiakou.
  • Reduction of dioxins in the pulp and paper industry. This includes study visits to Sweden, including Swedish pulp and paper factories.
  • Chemical handling. This project has activities that describe Swedish and European legislation. We are also helping China to construct databases to acquire knowledge about which chemicals are used and which companies manufacture or use these substances.
  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) and the environment. In this project, study material was produced concerning the WTO’s environmental demands. The project included education for trainers and several courses have since been held in China.
  • Green companies in China. The project included introducing different ways to promote the development of green companies in China at policy level. Examples include economic policy instruments, such as taxes and charges, as well as environmentally-friendly procurement.

Page owner: The Communication Department

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