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June 13th, 2008:

Clean Environment Is Essential

Clean environment is essential for our long-term development

Updated on Jun 13, 2008 – SCMP

With the buoyant economy, more people are able to afford luxury cars which are major polluters. It is ironic to see that citizens are on the one hand enjoying the fruits of economic success but, on the other, ignoring the environment and exacerbating our pollution problems.

A society can only enjoy sustainable development if it has a good environment. A society depends upon profitable investments, but unless it has a clean environment it will not achieve its full potential.

Leading figures from the international business community have repeatedly urged the Hong Kong government to make cleaner air its priority if it wants to retain its status as an international financial centre. Many foreign bankers and their families and other businessmen, have been attracted to other cities in the region, because they have lower pollution levels. Our government must be aware of this growing trend and it should not be neglected.

World leaders have woken up to the fact that we must clean up our act. Studies have shown us the strong correlation between the quality of air we breathe in and the chance of us succumbing to respiratory-related illnesses. Some studies have suggested that air pollution costs our city about HK$21 billion a year in terms of medical expenses and lost productivity.

Health problems aside, Hong Kong’s slipping rank in quality-of-life surveys is also becoming an embarrassment for the government, with Hong Kong slipping down the table compiled by the ECA International Survey of the best locations to live in.

Our government should bear the responsibility to protect its citizens and ensure their health does not deteriorate. A workforce enjoying good mental and physical health performs better.

In Hong Kong, where the economy depends heavily on tourism, improving the air quality can benefit the territory by enticing more people to visit.

In the long term, we still need to aim for sustainable development. Through raising people’s living standards by keeping the environment clean, we can be assured of a rapid and sound development.

Borromeo Li Ka-kit, Kwun Tong