Using multi-pronged strategy to curb air pollution in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 December, 2015, 12:16am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 December, 2015, 12:16am

I refer to Terry Scott’s letter (“Long-term inaction over city’s bad air”, November 26).

The government is determined to protect public health and has been taking proactive action to improve air quality.

A Clean Air Plan was launched in March 2013, outlining our policies and measures and plans to tackle the air pollution problem by a multipronged strategy.

Subsequently, we launched an Air Quality Health Index to help the public better understand the health risks of air pollution and take precautionary action.

We also launched an incentive-cum-regulatory approach to phase out some 82,000 pre-Euro IV diesel commercial vehicles by the end of 2019, with HK$11.4 billion set aside to assist affected vehicle owners.

We have stepped up enforcement against petrol and liquefied petroleum gas vehicles by using remote sensing devices and dynamometers for emission testing.

Hong Kong has been the first place in Asia to require ocean-going vessels to switch to cleaner fuel while at berth. We also reduced the sulphur content of marine light diesel by 90 per cent. We have continued to tighten the emission caps on power plants. We have also been working with the Guangdong government to reduce emissions in the Pearl River Delta. Our target is to broadly meet by 2020 the Air Quality Objectives that took effect in 2014.

The above efforts have begun to bear fruit. Compared with 2010, roadside concentrations of respirable suspended particulates, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide were reduced by 17 per cent, 13 per cent and 10 per cent respectively in 2014. The respective reductions of these key pollutants in the general air were 4 per cent, 6 per cent and 8 per cent.

As to idling vehicles, the Motor Vehicle Idling (Fixed Penalty) Ordinance has empowered environmental protection inspectors and traffic wardens to issue fixed penalty notices to drivers idling a vehicle engine for more than three minutes in any 60-minute period. Enforcement-cum-publicity activities are also conducted at idling engine black spots.

From the commencement of the ordinance in mid-December 2011 to the end of October 2015, law enforcement officers timed 4,712 vehicles with idling engines and issued fixed penalty tickets to 186 drivers who violated the ordinance.

During the period, 1,172 enforcement-cum-publicity activities were conducted. Drivers are now generally more mindful of switching off idling engines than before.

Mok Wai-chuen, assistant director (air policy), Environmental Protection Department