Smog-inducing pollutants will be targeted in the extended cleaner production scheme for Hong Kong-owned factories in the Pearl River Delta for two years, the organiser of the scheme says.
These factories could start applying from April for funding from the government to help them carry out projects to reduce emissions and save energy, or to help them assess and verify their existing anti-pollution measures.
The legislature has approved a total of HK$50 million for the extended scheme, which was introduced in 2008 with HK$93 million funding for five years. It is hoped that at least 460 factories will take part in the scheme. At least 90 could get up to HK$300,000 or up to half of the costs to install pollution control devices.
The only condition is that the factory should open its facilities at least twice to other companies to share the technology.
Tsang Kam-lam, general manager of the Hong Kong Productivity Council said the extended scheme would focus on two air pollutants - volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. This means printers or furniture makers, which use a lot of solvents, would be the targets. Both the pollutants could lead to the formation of smog or ground-level ozone pollution under the right meteorological conditions such as abundant sunshine.
Smog or ozone pollution leads to poor visibility and prolonged exposure at high levels is harmful to health.
"We have seen Beijing plagued by heavy smog and we know that it might be related to the fine particles," he said. "In Hong Kong we also pay serious attention to the problem and consider what could be done to reduce the organic compounds pollution."
Under a cross-border pact to cut emissions, the delta region will have to cut by 10 per cent the production of volatile organic compounds and 18 per cent of nitrogen oxides by 2015.
Emissions of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides in the delta amounted to 903,000 and 889,000 tonnes in 2010.
The cleaner production scheme was introduced in response to the poor air quality of Hong Kong in 2007. It was estimated then that at least 56,000 factories in the delta were owned and operated by Hongkongers.
"Even if we shut down all our power plants and prohibit all the buses from running in the street, there will still be a substantial amount of pollution coming from across the border."
He said the scheme itself was not a silver bullet but it was a good start.
During the first phase of the scheme, the 2,000 factories taking part in it cut their output of volatile organic compounds by 3,400 tonnes, nitrogen oxide by 2,500 tonnes and carbon dioxide by 660,000 tonnes in five years.