Tuesday, 17 January 2012

We Want Clean Air

You thought air in China was bad -- it's pretty atrocious in Hong Kong.

And we're supposed to be a developed society.

Think tank Civic Exchange says Hong Kong is lagging behind the mainland when it comes to tackling air pollution. Last week China's environment minister said it would measure pollutants smaller than PM2.5 (2.5 micrometres) at all its monitoring stations by March, a week after Beijing said it would make similar data publicly available.

Former lawmaker Christine Loh Kung-wai of Civic Exchange said the mainland's recent launch of a consultation to upgrade air quality objectives puts the pressure on the Hong Kong government which has yet to upgrade its 24-year-old objectives despite Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's pledge to do so last year.

Twenty-four-year-old objectives?

The Hong Kong government has done NOTHING for the past 24 years to improve the air quality of this city?

No wonder expatriates and locals who have the means are leaving here in droves.

"The mainland is much more aggressive than Hong Kong in dealing with setting air quality objectives," she said. "This has happened because Hong Kong's senior officials lack the understanding and courage to set demanding [objectives] and to use them as a tool to address the epidemic of public health impacts."

However we must add here that China only started doing this after a long-simmering uproar over the discrepancies between the air quality readings the government was issuing compared to those from the US Embassy in Beijing that are released via Twitter.

Beijing will publish its PM2.5 readings by January 23 Xinhua reported recently. We'll have to see how close they are compared to the US Embassy's data, which could lead to another battle over integrity...

Meanwhile Civic Exchange's head of environmental strategy, Mike Kilburn, said Hong Kong set less stringent targets that were easier to achieve, possibly for political reasons.

Citing figures from the University of Hong Kong's Hedley Environmental Index, Loh said more than 7,200 local deaths had been connected to air pollution in the seven years Tsang has been in office.

Dr Wong Ming-chit of the School of Public Health at the University of Hong Kong, agreed with the group's conclusion that the administration's ability and commitment to air quality  -- roadside and shipping pollution in particular -- was questionable.

"These are problems that haven't been solved for many years," he said. "And these are pressing issues because people's health is at stake. When you think about it, several thousands deaths is a big number. The public panic even when several people die from bird flu."

Last week the Environmental Protection Department revealed roadside air pollution levels last year were the worst on record.

Various studies show these PM2.5 particles enter the lungs and contribute to many health problems including acute respiratory symptoms and child bronchitis, cause premature deaths owing to their toxicity, and cause cardiovascular illnesses.

Sounds like a red alarm problem to me. Why is the Hong Kong government still dragging its feet on this issue? It tries to spread the blame on the Pearl River Delta region, that we are near the factories across the mainland. But seriously, we have our own air pollution issues with amount of cars on the roads these days and heavily polluting vehicles that really should be taken off the roads.

While business rules Hong Kong, what is the point of making people sick? Imagine the health care costs. Wouldn't the city be more productive when people are breathing in relatively cleaner air?

Now that's something for Tsang and the future chief executive to think about.

1 comment:

  1. the ultimate problem is overpopulation. too many cars, too many people, too many industrial plants producing the undesirable wastes.