Hong Kong government’s HK$11.7 billion Clean Air Plan to tackle air pollution has failed

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Hong Kong air pollution might be getting worse.

The government’s HK$11.7 billion plan to improve the city’s air pollution has failed, according to an environmental group.

The plan to phase out old diesel vehicles is one of many policies the Hong Kong-based NGO Clean Air Network said had little effect. Results from a study by the group shows there has been no major improvement in roadside pollution since 2016.

The yearly average amount of PM10 – small particles that can get deep into the lungs – measured at roadsides dropped from about 53 micrograms per cubic metre of air in 2012, to less than 38 micrograms in 2017. But from January to June this year, the average amount in the air rose to 40 micrograms, despite a progress report which expected to see a drop this year to 35 micrograms.

Pollution is just one thing leading to lowest quality of life in Hong Kong since 2003

The Environment Bureau’s Clean Air Plan, which started in 2013, expected PM10 to drop to 32 micrograms by 2020, one of the targets set by the World Health Organisation – 59 per cent above the safe amount of 20mcg.

Ozone pollution, which is caused by several different sources and harms the layer that protects Earth from the Sun’s UV rays, also reached another new high in the first half of the year. It was found to have risen with NO2, a toxic gas, on high-pollution days.

The environmental group urged the government to focus more on controlling the number of vehicles on the road and electrifying more public transport. The group added that electrifying all buses run by big companies that travel through the city’s three low emissions zones – Central, Mong Kok, and Causeway Bay, home to about 250 routes – could cut 646 tonnes of harmful emissions, about as much as the emissions of all private cars in a year.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda