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  • Dec 23, 2014
  • Updated: 4:42am
NewsHong Kong

Act now on city's pollution crisis, warn campaigners

Green group urges measures on roads and at sea as environment official pledges 'big moves' on city's pollution crisis ahead of policy address

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 January, 2013, 11:58am

Air quality at shopping and commercial districts is continuing to decline ahead of new measures to curb the city's pollution problem, says a green group's review.

The group, Clean Air Network, has called for bold and immediate action to improve air quality, including implementing rules to scrap old diesel trucks and make all sea vessels switch to cleaner fuel.

Undersecretary for the Environment Christine Loh Kung-wai echoed their wishes, suggesting yesterday that tough action was on the way. "We will have big moves," she told a meeting of the Legislative Council's subcommittee on air quality. "After all the money is spent … there will be apparent changes on the roads."

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying is expected to announce, in his maiden policy address on Wednesday, a generous subsidy scheme to replace old vehicles .

Clean Air Network's call came after their review found no improvement in the roadside nitrogen dioxide level in Mong Kok, despite bus firms agreeing in 2011 to deploy low emission vehicles to busy districts.

The pollutant's annual average concentration in the area hit a new record of 122 micrograms per cubic metre last year - 1.6 per cent higher than the previous record set in 2011.

And although there were slight improvements the nitrogen dioxide levels in Central and Causeway Bay - dropping to 117mcg and 120mcg from 125mcg and 126mcg respectively last year - these levels were still at least three times the limit advised by the World Health Organisation.

The pollutant, which can cause respiratory and heart diseases in cases of over-exposure, has become one of the city's biggest problems in recent years.

While roadside sulphur dioxide and particulate levels have fallen, nitrogen dioxide levels have surged since 2008, peaking in 2011. Officials blame bus and truck emissions, poor maintenance of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) vehicles and chemical reactions with other pollutants.

Clean Air Network's chief executive officer, Kwong Sum-yin, said old diesel trucks and franchised buses were the main culprits of pollution in Mong Kok.

The group's review also found that Sham Shui Po and Kwai Chung - districts situated close to the container ports and key logistic routes - remained the most affected by sulphur pollution.

Addressing the issue of pollution by marine emission, Loh said legislation was necessary to make vessels switch to cleaner fuel. She said if this was done, Hong Kong would be the first in Asia to introduce such rules. "What should be done must be done with great force," she said.

Loh said she had asked two local universities to submit proposals on long-term research on public health and air pollution.

This was crucial to show the health costs of pollution and the benefits of curbing it, she said.

Professor Anthony Hedley, of the University of Hong Kong, told the subcommittee yesterday that American studies had showed that for every US dollar spent on cleaning up the air, four dollars of benefits were generated.

An index, named after Hedley and which tracks real-time air pollution, showed that poor air quality caused more than 3,000 premature deaths and monetary loss of HK$39 billion last year.

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said most roadside pollutants showed a slight to moderate drop in concentration last year, compared to the 2005 levels.

But the nitrogen dioxide level was 24 per cent higher than in 2005. He said the number of days when the roadside air pollution index was over 100 also fell, from 172 days to 142 last year.


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If Hong Kong should succeed in reducing local pollution sources they will soon be confronted with the likely reality of increasing cross-border pollution carry over. I went coal-fired power stations in Zhuhai and Guangzhou Thursday and Friday. Believe me, pollution reduction is NOT a priority at either plant. The Zhuhai plant has very primitive pollution control. The engineers at the plant are both poorly qualified and very myopically focused on issues such as how new equipment will effect them personally. It is possible we will be able to get a very small project at the plant, but meaningful pollution reduction from the plant is unlikely to ever occur. The Guangzhou plant has about 3 times the NOx pollution of similar plants in OECD nations. Again the plants operators are both incompetant and short-sighted. My happy message to Hong Kong is get used to the pollution, no matter what Christine Lo and others are able to achieve. Hong Kong will remain very polluted for many decades. My guess is that pollution will worsen. David Dunn www.airmonitor-china.com
London has 301 hybrid double deckers and will have 450 by March 2013 and 600 by 2016. These are suitable for HKG. They have a small Euro VI diesel engine that runs only to charge the batteries that drive the vehicles' electric motors. The diesel engine will not run at bus stops. Braking charges the batteries. One third of our total emissions come from shipping in and passing thru HK waters. The past adminstration did nothing to approach China to gazette our waters as an Emissions Control Zone. Bowtie, Edward Yau and Anissa Wong had a willful disregard for the environment and pollution and hence failed in their duty of care to the public - they should all be charged with misconduct in public office which will set an example for other highly paid underperforming indecisive Government officials. Meanwhile the Government can gazette Nathan Rd, Causeway Bay and Central as Clean Air Zones into which only Euro4 or higher, hybrid or electric buses can enter and the bus companies must comply or lose out. How many people know Bowtie's brother gets $9m a year running Citybus and NWFB which perhaps explains the reticence to crack down on the bus companies and in fact renew their franchises on lenient terms before he left office. Ah yes, Rafael **** sat on the KMB board by coincidence. Yet Edward Yau and Anissa Wong still have Govt jobs ! how incredible is that !
I have known people who are moving out of HK one by one over the last 15 years, for no reason other than the increasingly polluted air.
What bothers me most is this : HK is quick in doing other things, such as putting up these tall buildings. However when come to cleaning up polluted air, HK is no better than a snail.
So far there has been a lot of talks. Results ? Zip.
And number of people having respiratory problems, especially kids ? Too many.
Solutions ? Start with massive public education and campaign on the importance of clean air. You have got to have a genuine mindset change first.
Loh is not doing the right thing. There is no need to do any more studies - we know the air is very much polluted, we know what the key sources of air pollutions are (buses, cars, ...). Just get down to work on those key sources. It is that simple. Just do it, no more studies.
It is kind of scary that the air in Jakarta, a city known for absurdly bad air pollution, is significantly better than HK. Yesterday from the business district could see 30 miles to Bogor and 25 miles to the Krakatua volcano. When I left HK a week ago, I could not see Lantau across the bridge from Tsing Yi. Both are cities on the sea. Both are big cities (Jakarta is about double the size of HK). Both have lots of vehicles and power stations in the city. HK's air has just become worse and worse in terms of particulate and yet we obsess more about CY's illegal structures, whether we should be allowed to demonstrate or if the property billionaires are going to make enough on sales of their next billion dollar apartment complex while something that could be addressed (as it is in many large cities) is left on the side. I guess no one sees a way to make some money on the side fighting pollution.
Welcome to Beijing. Since a bout 3 days we are in the AQI range of 400-500. This winter here is one of the worst in terms of flu and colds. No wonder. Maybe I should move to LA. Sure better.
As the photo shows
Perceptions differ
CL may get drunk with her pose
But to most that manifests pretentious irrelevance
Her trick is to solicit academic papers
As bureaucratic shield covering up ignorance
Government is not your “thing tank”
Put your feet on ground and do some real work
All sounds great but that's all it is, noise. Just how many years will it take for this government to ACT?
Air quality control in Los Angeles is essentially a scam that intentionally shortens the life span of millions, especially men.


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