Delays in low-emission zones make good environmental sense

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 August, 2010, 12:00am

There has been a strong public reaction to the news that there may be a delay in the implementation of low-emission zones in busy districts of Hong Kong.

This move is seen as being detrimental to the environment and to residents in those districts. However, while I support the original intention of these zones it is reasonable to delay the process.

The idea was that only public buses with emission levels of Euro IV could enter these zones. However, only 160 buses currently meet this standard in Hong Kong. The transport system, especially in these zones would come to standstill. This could damage our economy. More people would be forced to drive their own cars and this would exacerbate existing traffic congestion and air pollution problems. Therefore, there should be a delay in the establishment of the zones.

Also, the Environmental Protection Department has suggested that the bus companies should fit Euro II and Euro III buses with a filter to meet Euro IV emission standards. However, the catalyst reduction device has only been installed in single-decker buses in London and Belgium. Tests must be carried out to see if it is feasible in Hong Kong. It has been suggested there may not be enough space for the device and it might not be compatible with the engine. Research must be undertaken and this will take time.

A delay in the establishment of these zones does not imply a failure in environmental protection. We need to be prepared and do what is necessary to pave the way for the setting up of these zones.

The government should offer subsidies to the bus firms to help them replace the Euro II with the Euro IV buses in stages. If the companies can introduce 200 Euro IV buses each year, this would increase the likelihood of establishing the zones in the near future. The EPD should also carry out research to find out whether double-decker buses can be fitted with the filter.

Nothing can be done in one go. We need to be properly prepared for these low-emission zones and other eco-friendly initiatives. I hope that the government, the bus companies and the public can work together to alleviate air pollution.

So Ying-kin, Wong Tai Sing