Lai See

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 November, 2011, 12:00am


Clearing the air over credit for source of pollution data

Good to see Friends of the Earth pointing to the 'disappointing and shameful' air quality in Hong Kong.

It is also a shame and somewhat disappointing it wasn't so frank about acknowledging how it came by the data.

While the original source of the data was the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), Friends of the Earth first heard about the existence of measurements for PM2.5 in Hong Kong in an e-mail from another green group, Clear the Air.

Lai See saw this original data some time ago and it was sent by Clear the Air to the Legco panel on the environment on October 1.

When contacted, Clear the Air chairman James Middleton said the organisation was 'somewhat miffed at the lack of acknowledgement' of Friends of the Earth's source.

But, he added, 'any press exposure that shows the horrendous state of lethal PM2.5 and ultrafines' pollution here caused by incompetent government inaction, prevarication and lack of political will, is good exposure that will be picked up on by the international press and corporations thinking about setting up shop here.'

PM2.5 refers to particles suspended in the air of 2.5 micrometres in diameter. These are smaller and more dangerous to health than PM10, for which the EPD publishes measurements on its website.

The department is doing test-runs for PM2.5. These smaller particles enter the lungs and contribute to acute respiratory symptoms, increase the frequency of child bronchitis, cause premature death owing to their toxicity and carcinogens, and cause cardiovascular illnesses such as heart attacks and heart beat irregularities, according to studies by Harvard University and others.

Middleton says Clear the Air, with help from a donor, plans to buy a Dust Track unit. With a certified expert at the controls, the unit will take PM2.5 readings in our busiest streets which will be published later.

Anger management

We have dwelt at some length on the subject of how it is that sections of Hong Kong's wealthy feel they can park illegally with impunity because of the reluctance of the police and traffic wardens to give them a ticket.

But the lot of a policeman is not always a happy one.

A reader tells us that while walking along Robinson Road he noticed a policeman writing a ticket. As he watched, a passing dog urinated against the offending vehicle. Unfortunately, the policeman was splashed during the course of this operation.

Angered, he berated the owner. This excited the dog, which began leaping up and down at the policeman. At which point, according to our observer, the policeman began to reach for his gun.

Our reader, barely concealing his mirth, offered to act as a witness but was brusquely invited to move on. The police officer recovered his composure and the dog survived.

Save an elephant

Next time you visit an elephant camp in Thailand, where you can have rides or watch elephants paint and perform other tricks, have a care. In most cases the elephant will have gone through a brutal 'training' process to achieve this and there are examples on video website YouTube.

We were recently made aware by Louise Rogerson of the Elephant Asia Rescue and Survival (EARS) foundation of the barbaric treatment of elephants, particularly the younger ones, used in the tourist trade in Thailand and Cambodia.

The organisation aims to heighten awareness of the pain inflicted on these animals, while directing attention to a number of elephant sanctuaries which have emerged in Thailand in recent years.

At the sanctuaries, visitors can see the elephants in their natural habitat and can wash them and watch them working. The elephants - often overworked and sick - are bought from their owners.

Rogerson, who set up the foundation which has since become a charity, is currently trying to rescue Sambo, a 51-year-old female elephant in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

The foundation paid for Sambo - who has lived a solitary life at a temple for 30 years - to be examined and treated last month by Dr Paolo Martelli, the chief veterinarian at Ocean Park.

The elephant is in great pain owing to an untreated foot condition, and limps around Wat Phnom temple carrying tourists in a heavy chair.

Details of what EARS does and information on where to find elephant-friendly sanctuaries, volunteer programmes and how to donate to the foundation, can be found at