Officials could adopt simple measures to reduce high levels of roadside pollution

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 September, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 September, 2011, 12:00am


Pedestrians do not need research to know that Hong Kong's streets are 'full of stationery vehicles with their engines running [that] could be 10 times more polluted than busy roads full of slow moving traffic' ('Idling engines ramp up pollution', September 19).

We witness this phenomenon every day, not only on congested inner city streets but even in well-ventilated areas like outside the outlying island ferry piers where drivers put their feet up and blast hot fumes over what should be a pleasant harbourfront viewing and sitting area.

While the ban on idling engines will come into force in December, there has been absolutely no action on the part of the Environmental Protection Department to promote the message. What do the department's staff do all day? They should be out on the streets in bright traffic vests shaming idlers by bringing their attention to the imminent legislation.

Additional traffic wardens should be patrolling with the same message emblazoned on their shirts while showing zero tolerance for traffic and parking violations, the cause of much of the idling. Instead, when one calls the police to complain about illegal parking, the response is often that the police are short of manpower. How can this be with around 30,000 serving officers? There never seems to be any shortage when it comes to policing even the most innocuous demonstration.

No effort is being made to engage the management of large shopping malls and shame them into demonstrating some corporate social responsibility by cancelling all fee-free parking during peak hours. This would reduce the long lines of idling vehicles queueing to enter mall car parks. A smart corporate social responsibility campaign would ensure that all malls are on board to ensure a level playing field.

It is also high time that Hong Kong adopted a more flexible approach to business hours and the government should set a good example in this regard. This would relieve pressure not only on the streets but also on restaurants and other services and benefit the community greatly. In this wired-up age, the nine-to-five mindset needs to be relaxed.

There are many simple measures that could be introduced to reduce roadside pollution and speed up traffic flow. As this would translate into solid economic gains, there is no rationale to the administration's inertia when it comes to tackling the problem.

Candy Tam, Wan Chai