Sensible policies can prevent air pollution caused by festival

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 September, 2010, 12:00am

This is the time of year when Hongkongers celebrate the Hungry Ghost or Yu Lan festival.

It is not uncommon in the evening to see people in crowded urban areas conduct roadside ritual burning of candles, joss sticks and paper. This adds to the summer heat and fills the air with more pollutants, causing a nuisance to pedestrians. There are also offerings of tofu, bean sprouts and fresh fruit, which are left by the side of the road and create a littering problem.

The roadside burning is mainly conducted by individuals. These are random events and they are not subject to controls under the laws in Hong Kong aimed at curbing air pollution. However, when this action becomes a regular event at a particular location, then the impact it has on the environment cannot be ignored and it should be controlled.

In one private housing estate in Pok Fu Lam, Chi Fu Fa Yuen, the management has attempted to accommodate those people who want to observe the festival by setting up six areas where burning of offerings is allowed. What concerns me is that three of the spots are located in leisure areas of the estate and in a children's playground. I have also noticed a fixed incense burning facility at the beautiful beach in Deep Water Bay. This creates air and refuse pollution at this scenic spot.

The government has made relentless efforts to keep Hong Kong clean and reduce emissions. It has launched public awareness campaigns to strive for clean air and a healthier environment. Yet its policy appears to be undermined by irresponsible behaviour and ill-considered decisions during this festival.

The health and safety of the public should not be compromised.

Having designated areas where burning of offerings during the festival is allowed can help keep the environment clean.

However, it will be ineffective if inappropriate locations are chosen.

Wing Cheuk, Pok Fu Lam