Hong Kong air pollution

Exemptions make a mockery of proposed idling engine law

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 May, 2015, 3:07pm

I am surprised to see the continual compromises to the proposed idling engine legislation.

These compromises will allow drivers to continue to pollute the air, pollution that makes thousands of people in Hong Kong ill.

Surely our lawmakers should be supporting a healthy population and clean environment. It is not a good idea to water down legislation in this way.

People supporting exemptions to the law refer to the 81-year-old minibus driver who died from [suspected] heatstroke, or another driver who received treatment at a hospital. But what about all those people who are sent to hospitals with respiratory problems, or children who get asthma?

The 81-year-old driver should not have been in that vehicle in the first place.

If it was so hot, he should have got out of the minibus and found some shade so he could cool off.

Especially annoying is the exemption for tour buses if they have customers waiting in the bus. Thousands of tour buses keep their dirty engines idling. Again, passengers can always alight and find some shade.

Instead of allowing drivers to keep their engines on, all drivers should be banned from allowing their engines to idle for more than one minute where the temperature is below 32 degrees Celsius.

If they disobey the law, they should face a maximum penalty of HK$1,000.

There should be clear signs in our streets stating the law and the fines payable.

The mainland's promotion of the tobacco industry is the same as the attitude being adopted by the Hong Kong government with regard to idling engines, that is, protect business interests rather than the health of citizens.

The mainland authorities say, in effect: 'Go ahead and smoke, as long as we get our taxes.' Our officials are saying it is okay to have idling engines so long as the vehicles have passengers who stimulate businesses which pay their taxes.

However, our priority should be the welfare of children.

In some European Union countries, there has been a ban on idling engines for more than 20 years, even in countries where in the winter it can go below freezing.

The ban in Sweden is straightforward. Drivers cannot allow their engines to idle for the purposes of heating the vehicle or running the air conditioning unit.

In many of our taxi ranks in Hong Kong, the vehicles are moving and their engines could be allowed to be switched on for that purpose, within a reasonable time frame.

Drivers who sleep in their cars with the engine on so they can have a more comfortable nap should be fined. You see this a lot with drivers of tour buses.

The maximum period a vehicle should be allowed to keep an engine idling should be one minute and there should be no exceptions.

Anders Ejendal, Repulse Bay