Dark future if officials stick to their head-in-the-sand air quality policies

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 February, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 February, 2011, 12:00am

Imagine a city where fresh air is non-existent, and people must wear gas masks outside. Imagine a city without direct sunlight due to the constant cover of smog, and where plants struggle to grow.

Imagine a city where lung diseases are rife and premature death is rampant.

If the government continues to take an ostrich position on air pollution, this will be Hong Kong's future. To avoid this vision, the government should embrace various approaches.

First, it needs to place heavier taxes on leisure vehicles such as roadsters and motorbikes. These frivolities are inefficient in terms of the number of passengers carried. They hold at most two people and contribute almost the same amount of air pollution as normal vehicles and full-size buses.

People should be encouraged to use public transport. Public double-decker buses have a passenger capacity of 118. The capacity of one full bus is equivalent to that of at least 23 standard cars or 59 motorbikes.

If public transport were used more often, air quality would significantly improve.

Public transport also has the added bonus of making people healthier because it means walking to the stop or station.

Car owners, on the other hand, lead a sedentary lifestyle.

To motivate people to use public transport more, it is paramount for the government to control and thus reduce public transport fees.

To this end, the government should nationalise transport.

Other places have adopted this with promising results. Northern Ireland, for example, has a state-run transport system that is reliable and efficient.

But, with KMB, Citybus, Long Win Bus, New World First Bus, and New Lantau Bus all competing for passengers, Hong Kong's transport is crowded to say the least.

Even worse, many of these companies' routes needlessly overlap and enormously contribute to air pollution.

I hope the government acts quickly before my vision of the future comes to pass.

Ho Kam-tong, Yuen Long