Clear The Air News Blog Rotating Header Image

February 1st, 2009:

Economic Crisis Gives Us A Chance To Become Environmentally Friendly

SCMP – Updated on Feb 01, 2009

Air pollution is a major concern in Hong Kong. I think the present financial crisis is the best time to begin changing our energy policies in an effort to lower our air pollution levels. We must do this, because as air quality deteriorates, our health will suffer. With [continuing dependence on oil] and fluctuating oil prices, we will face more economic instability. We have to recognise that as pollution gets worse, some professionals from abroad are reluctant to come and live in Hong Kong. Being a commercial city, there is huge demand for electricity. As a major entrepot in South China, our trucks, ships and aircraft consume a lot of fossil fuel.

I believe our power stations should come up with a strategy to develop renewable energy resources. We are using non-renewable energy, in the form of coal, natural gas and nuclear power. More should be done in Hong Kong to develop wind, solar and biomass energy. We should also consider co-operating with the authorities in Guangdong with a view to a joint venture through which we could develop green energy. Hong Kong could provide the necessary financing for such a joint venture and Guangdong could offer cheap labour and the spare land needed to establish the green projects. By lowering the cost of labour, land and energy, we can persuade foreign investors to set up companies in Hong Kong.

The government should also encourage Hong Kong citizens to save energy. For example, it could offer tax exemptions for environmentally friendly private cars. Tax penalties could be imposed on cars that pollute because of the fuel they use. I think the tax on plastic bags is a good start. We need to develop a new culture of responsibility regarding the environment. Instead of creating construction jobs as a way to stimulate the economy, we should consider ways of creating green job opportunities, especially for the unskilled who are out of work. For example, people will be needed to categorise our refuse and promote a recycling programme for Hong Kong’s households.

As I said, I think the economic downturn offers us a golden opportunity to diversify and develop green industries.

Stefan Lam Kit-yung, Tuen Mun

China Blames Pollution As Birth Defects Rise

AFP – 1 Feb 2009

BEIJING: Every 30 seconds a baby is born with physical defects in China, partly due to the country’s deteriorating environment, state media said, citing a senior family planning official.

The figure, reported by the China Daily in its weekend edition, adds up to almost 1.1 million in a year, or about seven percent of all births in the world’s most populous nation.

“The number of newborns with birth defects is constantly increasing in both urban and rural areas,” said Jiang Fan, vice-minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission, according to the paper.

She did not give a figure for the increase in the prevalence of birth defects in recent years.

A report in the Hong Kong-based Ta Kung Pao newspaper last month gave a lower figure for birth defects, saying they showed up in four to six percent of all births in China.

The factors behind birth defects are “very complicated”, Hu Yali, a professor at the Affiliated Drum Tower Hospital of Nanjing University in east China, told the Beijing-leaning Hong Kong paper then.

She said research suggested 10 percent of birth defects were caused by environmental pollution, while 25 to 30 percent were due to genetic factors, and the rest were due to a mixture of both, according to the Ta Kung Pao.

North China’s coal-rich Shanxi province, a major source of toxic emissions from large-scale chemical industries, has recorded the highest rate of birth defects, the China Daily said in its weekend edition.

“The problem of birth defects is related to environmental pollution, especially in eight main coal zones,” said An Huanxiao, the director of Shanxi provincial family planning agency, according to the paper.

Pan Jianping, a professor of the Women and Child Health Research Office under Xi’an Jiaotong University, warned that the increasing rate of birth defects among Chinese infants would soon become a social problem.

“It will influence economic development and the quality of life,” he was quoted as saying.

“Economic pressure is very heavy for families raising babies with physical defects, particularly for those who live in poor rural areas,” he said, according to the paper.