Lai See

How much longer for action on roadside pollution?

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 October, 2013, 3:16am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 October, 2013, 9:44am

The Environmental Protection Department issued a statement yesterday morning pointing out that its air pollution indices at roadside air quality monitoring stations reached a "very high" level. However, turning to the Hedley Environmental Index (HEI), we see that it described air pollution over Hong Kong more graphically as being "very dangerous".

The HEI is linked to World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines which indicate the levels beyond which air pollution begins to affect health.

In Causeway Bay, the hourly concentration of nitrogen dioxide at 5pm was 259ìg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre), compared with the WHO guideline average level for a 24-hour period of 140ìg/m3 - i.e. 85 per cent over the WHO limit. At the roadside in Central, the nitrogen dioxide level was 338ìg/m3. The PM10 respirable particles were 99ìg/m3 and 105ìg/m3 at Causeway Bay and Central respectively, compared with the WHO short-term guide of 50ìg/m3.

Levels of the much more dangerous PM2.5 particles, which can enter the lungs, were also dangerously high at 65ìg/m3 and 61ìg/m3 in Causeway Bay and Central, compared with the WHO guideline of 25ìg/m3. These figures are way above WHO guideline levels.

We are told weather conditions have exacerbated the high levels of pollution. But the street level pollution is produced locally. The absence of strong winds with the canyon effect created by skyscrapers means that the pollution is not being dispersed. This is not a new problem. A year ago we were promised action on this problem by taking old diesel-engined vehicles off the streets. We're still waiting. Meanwhile, thousands of unnecessary deaths are occurring every year due to our dirty air. Surely this is one area where the government can take resolute action without fearing street protests. `


Putting the boot in

We await with some interest to see how Permira Advisers, the London-based private equity company, deals with its purchase for £300 million (HK$3.77 billion) of the British bootmaker Dr Martens. Permira already owns Hugo Boss and Valentino.

Dr Martens boots have come a long way since their first incarnation in 1945 from leather looted from a cobbler's shop in post-war Germany and using discarded rubber from Luftwaffe airfields. They were initially popular with postmen, police officers and factory workers. Then they started to become something of a fashion item, proving popular with skinheads, punks, new wave musicians and later with aficionados of grunge.

The iconic black leather boot with distinctive yellow stitching is still made, but over the years the firm's range has expanded. Its latest collection now includes the patent leather boot in hot pink, as shown in the photograph. Given the vagaries of fashion, who knows - there may be synergies to be derived with Hugo Boss and Valentino. A sharp suit with hot pink boots - we've seen worse.


Bloomberg humour

Scrolling through headlines on Bloomberg recently we were intrigued by the following item. "Public Vasectomy With Band-Aid Promotes Family Planning: Health." This was immediately followed by, "Rubber Drops Most in Three Weeks." Was somebody at Bloomberg, as they say, "having a larf"?


China growth

A study by the Economist Intelligence Unit found obesity is a rising concern in Asia, and companies are likely to come under pressure to join governments in the battle against it. The rise in obesity is particularly dramatic in China, where the World Health Organisation classified 45 per cent of men as overweight in 2010, up from 27.5 per cent in 2002. According to the EIU, the percentage of obese Chinese children shot up from 0.2 per cent in 1985 to 8.1 per cent in 2010.


Those bonus caps

When regulators and politicians in Europe declared they were going to introduce bonus caps for the finance industry, everyone felt the banks would find a way round them. This they have done and we see Barclays has come up with a wheeze to reward staff with monthly payments based on their seniority and responsibilities, in addition to their annual salary and bonus.


Have you got any stories that Lai See should know about? E-mail them to