Cleaner air possible in HK in 2 years

HONG KONG - A prominent Hong Kong thinktank has called on the local government to adopt an air management plan which it says could reverse the city’s worsening pollution and bring cleaner air in two years time.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Sun 10 Sep 2006, 8:05 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 4:19 PM

‘Our plan ... tries to show that even in a relatively short period of time, progress can be made, because we have a crisis, a public health crisis,’ said Christine Loh, the head of the Civic Exchange thinktank.

She said air pollution was the primary environmental, community and business challenge currently facing Hong Kong and criticised the government’s cleanup effort so far as piecemeal and insufficient.

‘What we need right a multipronged attacking of the problem, and we need to do it fast,’ she said.

The plan calls on the government to adopt a number of initiatives including creating a new ‘Minister of Energy’ post next year to help formulate a new energy policy.

This would lay out a broader strategy for generating and conserving power, along with protecting the environment.

‘Hong Kong can lead the pack by itself acknowledging that energy is critical to economic growth, to public health, climate change, air pollution,’ the report said.

It also called on Hong Kong to adopt a green port policy and set up a regional Air Resources Board with the Guangdong government by 2012 to monitor and control emissions in the Pearl River Delta bordering Hong Kong.

The thinktank added Hong Kong needed to help distribute cleaner fuels to the tens of thousands of factories in southern China -- where frequent power shortages have forced many to run their own electricity generators using cheap, high-sulphur diesel.

The thinktank said the government’s unwillingness to impose higher costs on such factories through the use of cleaner fuels was harmful to the city, with up to 80 percent of Hong Kong’s haze-causing pollutants now blown in from the Pearl River Delta.

For the first six months this year, Hong Kong suffered 65 days of reduced visibility of less than 5 km (three miles), making it difficult at times to see buildings on both sides of its harbour.

‘What we need to look forward to is a time when only cleaner industries operate in the delta, and that the dirtier ones hopefully fold up shop entirely entirely or move someplace where they don’t poison the health and well-being of tens of millions of people,’ said Bill Barron, a researcher for the thinktank and a local university.

An earlier study by Civic Exchange and three local universities found cleaner air could save 1,600 lives and HK$21 billion (US$2.7 billion) a year in Hong Kong.

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