Environment bureau steps up efforts to monitor and control emissions as pollution index climbs With the pall of pollution thickening in recent weeks, Hong Kong officials have made plans to travel to Guangdong for discussions on how to control the problem. 'We will send a team up [to Guangdong] to observe their power stations and other sources of the pollutants, to hammer out measures to control the emission of pollutants,' Permanent Secretary for the Environment Keith Kwok Ka-keung said yesterday. Speaking on a Commercial Radio programme, Mr Kwok acknowledged that rapid industrial development in the Pearl River Delta had worsened air quality. But Green Power chief executive officer Man Chi-sum said it would be more effective for Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa to speak directly with his Guangdong counterpart instead of relying on his officials. They might not be senior enough to press the mainland authorities to take action, he said. Air Pollution Index readings remained high across the region yesterday. By 3pm, the roadside readings hit 95 in Mongkok, 75 in Central and 69 in Causeway Bay. Dr Man said there was an urgent need for Hong Kong to begin controlling pollution. The city's pollution was likely to worsen in the coming months when the power stations in Guangdong responded to the surge in demand for heat in the winter. Mr Kwok said Hong Kong and Pearl River Delta officials planned to set up a regional data-exchange network on air quality by the end of this year. He said Hong Kong and Guangdong had stepped up their co-operation to tackle cross-border pollution since 2002, including setting up an index to monitor the emission of pollutants. But he warned that Hong Kong could continue to have poor air quality as it would 'take time to fix the problems'. On September 16, seven air-monitoring stations recorded readings above 100, while roadside readings topped 158 in Central and 126 in Causeway Bay. At Tung Chung, where the register reached a record reading of 201 on September 14, the register peaked at 140 at 5pm. 'It is worrying that the air quality is already so poor before the pollution peak in winter,' Dr Man said. 'More pollutants are likely to be carried down from Guangdong when the wind from the north becomes prevalent in winter time.' Dr Man said that besides Tung Chung, some parts of New Territories North such as Fanling, close to the border, would be the hardest hit. 'However, we are sceptical about the enthusiasm of the Guangdong authorities in controlling pollution as the economic consideration always outweighs the environment concern in the mainland,' he said. On Thursday, the government announced plans for the merger of the Environment Protection Department and its policy-making bureau, the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau. The organisational shake-up is aimed at saving $8.85 million a year by bringing improvements in efficiency. The department will replace the bureau's present environmental branch from April 1. The director's powers will be transferred to the permanent secretary for the environment. Mr Kwok will take on the extra title of director of the 1,700-strong department.