Price of being green gets steeper

THE price of being green will go up for the people of Hong Kong: over the next 1,000 days it will cost more to flush your toilet, dump your rubbish, and to ride in taxis.

It will even cost more to enjoy the sounds of silence.

The Environmental Protection Department will start enforcing water, air and noise pollution strategies, some of which it recommended in its 1989 White Paper on the environment.

The 'polluter pays' scheme to charge for dumping privately collected solid waste will begin in 1995. Not only will industries have to pay, but residential complexes which use private waste collection companies will see an increase in their management fees because of the programme.

Sewage charges will go in place in 1995 to help recover the cost of sewage services and to 'raise environmental awareness in the community'.

The construction industry will have to comply with tightened controls on noise pollution. Construction industry spokesman Patrick Chan Wing-tung says these costs will eventually trickle down to the consumer.

The Government also pledged to reduce vehicle emissions over the next two years and to introduce more stringent emission standards for larger vehicles on April 1 next year. Diesel vehicles are responsible for 80 per cent of the most harmful pollutants in the air. As of May 1996, all diesel vehicles will have to undergo annual inspection and maintenance.

But environmental groups said the Government skirted the real environmental issues in Hong Kong.

'We feel the Government is dragging its heels,' Friends of the Earth spokesman, Lisa Hopkinson, said.

'It was a typical politician's response to the real problems. Nothing concrete was said and nothing new came down the pipeline,' she said.

'The closest they came to doing something significant was to name the Mai Po Marshes area a protected site, but they said they would only consider it. Mai Po is Hong Kong's premier conservation site and if they are not going to protect that what will they protect?' A senior government official admitted this year's policy speech was the 'blandest yet' in terms of the environment. But he said the Government stood behind the principle the polluters should pay for the cost of environmental damage.