Hong Kong government must set good example with green policies

Imagine a surgeon observing a dying patient surrounded by the most expensive gizmos available and the best staff (yes, I value the amazing Hong Kong health service), saying they could not undertake any operations for the next 20 years because the committee hearing the findings of the public inquiry can't decide on whether they are worth saving.

The misleading levels of pollution reported in Hong Kong since 1992 dismay me.

These days, we are less likely to hear the term "haze" or "the high levels of pollution result from an anticyclone". Now, we do hear "dangerous levels of pollution", "stay indoors", "don't exercise outside", "keep children and elderly indoors". This is a tiny step towards recognising reality.

There seems to be a conspiracy theory which suggests that containers full of Guangdong pollution are loaded onto archaic trucks and driven to Central, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok and offloaded at dawn to poison our poor bankers, schoolchildren and bird lovers.

Those who own the trucks, buses, power stations and ships are not immune to toxins and emphysema. Don't we all have to breathe air?

We have one of the longest life expectancies on the planet, but for how long?

I would like to ask our chief executive to have the courage to address this issue as a matter of urgency. I am asking for accountability.

Promises to improve housing, health care and pensions will count for nothing unless those of you in the government's ranks wake up to the reality that you need to make some blindingly obvious choices.

Ban filthy buses and trucks (or employ competent people who know how to fix them regularly and enforce regulations), stop filthy fuel being used in ships in and around Hong Kong waters and get a more effective filtration system in operation in power stations (remove the profit guarantee unless CLP and Hongkong Electric do so). That's a start. Of course, people will say that it is so expensive. For whom? Dying slowly is cheap? Think days off work or in hospital, or gasping for air.

If the correct example is set, the intelligent, responsible people of Hong Kong will realise it is in their interests to recycle, waste less, consume less, insulate and conserve.

Let's face reality. We have one planet to look after. Greed, stupidity and inertia are not attractive attributes when there is a life-threatening ailment.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Chief executive must have courage to deal with our polluted air