Hong Kong Gov’s Inaction on Air Pollution

Lisa Genasci —  February 10, 2010 — Leave a comment

Hong Kong’s air quality is among the world’s worst for a city of comparable income levels. Here, the pollution we breathe negatively affects everyone. Not surprisingly, the poor are disproportionately impacted because they are unable to move out of some of the city’s most congested, polluted areas.

Since 1987, the World Health Organization has issued Air Quality Guidelines (”AQG”) to help governments protect public health. These AQGs are periodically revised to take into account the latest scientific research on the health impact of bad air. Currently, however, Hong Kong’s Air Quality Objectives (“AQO”) permit emissions that exceed the WHO’s latest AQGs by two to four times.  The AQOs, which are non-binding, were last updated in 1987. This year, the Government is reviewing the AQOs for the first time in more than 20 years.

Over the past two decades there has been insufficient action to mitigate air pollution in Hong Kong. We have often heard from government officials that there is little that can be done to change the quality of our air because much of the pollution drifts across the border from Guangdong.

Yet, research by the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has shown that 53% of the time (192 days per year in 2006), most pollution affecting Hong Kong is from LOCAL SOURCES.

Some alarming facts about Hong Kong air pollution:

  • By WHO standards, Hong Kong’s air is only safely breathable 41 days a year.
  • Hong Kong air pollution causes three (avoidable) deaths a day, or more than 1,100 per year.
  • Hong Kong’s air is three times more polluted than New York’s and more than twice as polluted as London.
  • Although overall emissions tonnage has fallen in the past 15 years, roadside pollution has not improved. Because of its high concentration in close physical proximity to us, roadside pollution poses the biggest threat to human health.
  • 40% of roadside emissions come from buses.

It is therefore incorrect to believe that Hong Kong-based pollution abatement measures would make no or little difference in improving the local air quality.

We believe the Government could and should act immediately to improve the quality of air we breathe. Many cities worldwide have successfully taken action to clean their air and we believe that with tight AQOs and an appropriate plan of action could similarly clean up our air and improve the lives and health of residents

The Clean Air Network (www.hongkongcan.org) was formed to educate the public about the health impacts of air pollution and mobilize support for clean air in Hong Kong.

CAN is a NETWORK, bringing together and amplifying the voices of individuals, groups and organizations.

CAN’s overarching goal is to work with the Government to implement a stricter and more proactive air quality management regime.

Watch the CAN video here: http://bit.ly/86Md2r

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Lisa Genasci

Posts

CEO of Hong Kong-based ADM Capital Foundation

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