More focus needed to cut air pollution
Mainland China's rapid industrial development has led to many problems of air pollution in its cities. Residents have long wanted the government to tackle the problem - and provide more accurate information about pollution.
In 2004 Beijing was ranked as the 13th most polluted city in the world. Pollution from factories and motor vehicles burning fossil fuels has continually added to air pollution problems caused by big construction projects. Beijing's air quality became a global concern when it hosted the 2008 Olympics. At the time, the World Health Organisation said Beijing's air pollution was much higher than recommended levels.
The quality of the air we breath affects our health. So reducing air pollution is one of the first things citizens worry about. We need accurate information on how clean the air is. The government said the country's air quality has improved a lot, but people doubt this. More must be done so the public can see real change and are satisfied officials take it seriously.
Janet Ching Hoi-man, Pooi To Middle School
From the Editor
Thank you for your letter, Janet. Air pollution is a hot topic at the moment, both in Hong Kong and Beijing. The United States embassy in Beijing has started to publish its own pollution figures, and so this shamed the government into making its own information public. Of course, once the information is 'out there' it would mean that people will become more dissatisfied, and the information published by the government will only give them ammunition to call for change.
Hong Kong now lags behind Beijing in checking its air quality, but officials say there are meters that are currently being tested.
Air pollution kills, there is no doubt about this. But the bad effects of controlling it will be a slow down in industrialisation and could affect China's edge over Western markets. In the West, factories are no longer allowed to commit ecocide. They have to implement expensive anti-pollution measures. That cost is clearly passed on to the consumer, so goods produced in Western countries are more expensive than those produced in China. If China begins to demand that factories clean up their act, its goods will increase in price and economic growth will slow.
If economic growth slows, that will not necessarily be a bad thing, in the light of the rampant pollution.