Friday, 9 March 2012

Airing Out the Data on Pollution

The Pearl River Delta region is leading the way in China with regards to publishing air pollution data regularly.

Yesterday the government websites of Hong Kong and Guangdong province published key particle readings from the country's largest network for air-quality detection, made up of 31 stations.

Professor Chen Zunrong, who studies the environment at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou hailed the announcement as a significant move towards transparency.

"It is a major step forward in promoting transparency of government information that will help the public understand the truth about air pollution," he said.

Hourly and 24-hour average readings of fine particles including those of fine particles from 17 stations in the delta region and 14 in Hong Kong can be viewed on the websites of the Guangdong Environment Protection Bureau and Hong Kong's Environmental Protection Department.

Hong Kong already publishes the levels of pollutants such as ozone and nitrogen oxide.

Chen believes this initiative from the Pearl River Delta area will force the rest of the country to give out their readings and in turn be a motivation to cut back in air pollution.

Beijing became the first to publish readings in January, but there was a lot of criticism because the data only came from one monitoring station so it was widely seen as incomplete and ineffectively giving a true picture of the serious smog issue.

While mainland Chinese environmentalists felt this was a historic step forward, critics in Hong Kong felt the city should do more.

Helen Choy Shuk-yee of the Clean Air Network was pleased about the release of the data, but was concerned about the lax standards on fine particles not being introduced until 2014.

She said currently none of the 14 monitoring stations in Hong Kong exceeded the proposed standard of 75 micrograms on a 24-hour period.

If standards were set at World Health Organization standards which is at 25 micrograms, up to six stations, including those in Causeway Bay, Mongkok and Central would fail.

Nevertheless, a spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Department said yesterday's fine particle concentration was within normal range. Perhaps that was because there was light rain yesterday?

She even added there was a 17 percent drop in the fine particle level between 2005 to 2011. How does she explain the significant rise in asthma cases in children and cancer rates then?

There are more vehicles in Hong Kong than before, along with buses and trucks. There was a trial to try out hybrid buses a few months back. What happened with that, or has that environmental initiative died already?

Why is it so hard to get the Hong Kong government to move forward on environmental issues? To it, the task seems utterly impossible whereas the rest of us are keen to clear the air for ourselves and our future.

No comments:

Post a Comment