Inaction on pollution benchmarks riles greens

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 October, 2010, 12:00am

A year after the completion of a public consultation on air quality objectives, the chief executive yesterday made no mention in his policy address of how to update the benchmarks, which are crucial to the fight to reduce pollution.

Instead, he came up with a few initiatives to cut roadside pollution. Green groups described these new measures as 'a disguise for Donald Tsang Yam-kuen' to cover up his lack of commitment on fundamental issues - such as revising the objectives and bringing them in line with the latest World Health Organisation benchmarks.

Expectations were high before the speech, since the chief executive had pledged two years ago to do just that. But Tsang mentioned nothing about it in the policy address, raising suspicions the government is using delay tactics to avoid more stringent environmental standards getting in the way of the upcoming infrastructure projects.

The environmental steps he promised focused on cutting roadside pollution. They include setting up low- emission zones in three busy areas - Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok - by 2015.

The government also earmarked HK$550 million to help retrofit a device in 3,900 Euro II and Euro III buses that will bring down their nitrogen oxide emission level to that of Euro IV models.

Another HK$30 million will be spent to buy six hybrid buses from London for trial runs in Hong Kong.

Kowloon Motor Bus, New World First Bus and its sister company Citybus said they would co-operate. But KMB principal engineer Kane Shum Yuet-hung questioned how effective these measures would be.

KMB's own tests had found the device too big for their buses and may affect the performance of other filters used to cut down particles.

As for the hybrid buses, KMB said while the model was widely used in London, it may not fit Hong Kong's hilly terrain and its air-conditioning may not work in the city's climate. It would also cost HK$2 million more each than a conventional bus, meaning continuing government subsidies are needed.