City has enough air quality index stations, but more are being planned
The government would consider building more air quality monitoring stations in the city even though there are already enough for policymaking and scientific purposes, lawmakers were told yesterday.
Two new stations in Tuen Mun and Tseung Kwan O are already planned in response to development and the growing population in those areas.
Apart from those two, the Environment Bureau would consider adding more stations to the 11 general and three roadside ones to satisfy the public's desire to have specific air quality readings in the districts where they live, Undersecretary for Environment Christine Loh Kung-wai said.
She was speaking at a Legislative Council public accounts committee hearing convened in response to last month's Audit Commission report, which had criticised the government's pollution-cutting measures as ineffective, inadequate or stalled by red tape.
Environment officials told the hearing that they were briefing government departments about a new air quality index and hoped to discuss it with the Legco environmental affairs panel by June.
Mok Wai-chuen, assistant director for the Department of Environmental Protection, said there were enough stations to cover Hong Kong.
He said it was not necessary to have more stations for scientific research and policymaking, adding that the department reviewed the network of stations every year.
Civic Party lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit was sceptical about Mok's comments. "Logically speaking, if resources allow, the more data you collect, the better it is for scientific purposes," he said.
Loh replied: "We may add more stations according to the public's needs. But there hasn't been a conclusion within the government yet."
Loh said the bureau accepted an expert report to replace the existing 17-year-old air quality index and were in touch with experts from the World Health Organisation for further studies. She said the new index, modelled on a Canadian approach, was innovative. It would include how air quality affects health.
Mok said it costs HK$3 million to build a station and HK$1.5 million to HK$2 million a year to maintain it.