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August 10th, 2009:

Lower emission standards fail to stop most dangerous particles


The government’s air-quality consultant, Ove Arup, says there are more regional rather than local sources for PM2.5 pollution [superfine particles].

Hong Kong is affected by northerly winds from the Pearl River Delta for only half the year. Indeed power companies in the delta started installing flue gas desulphurisation three years earlier than Hong Kong and Shanghai buses run off methanol.

PM2.5 pollution is the most lethal in our air. These particles are at least 30 times thinner than human hair in diameter and carry heavy metals from combustion processes that remain suspended in our air like cigarette smoke, restricting visibility and are unable to be filtered by lung or throat hairs so they enter unhindered into the lungs.

Our major polluters are our power stations that burn cheap coal, pre-Euro I diesel vehicles and ships in our port that burn the dregs of high-sulphur bunker fuel.

The Indigo (Agglomerator) technology that catches these particulates from power companies is available at the cost of just 17 days’ worth of Hong Kong’s coal supply.

By proposing interim World Health Organisation standards, the government allows the power companies to fit lower levels of best available current technology and still meet the emission standards, to the demise of public health.

Licence fees for pre-Euro I diesel engines could be tripled to encourage owners to trade up to Euro V models, which are four to six times less polluting. Shipping zones that are emission control areas in our waters need to be mandated like the US, forcing ships to use low-sulphur fuel.

Many ocean-going vessels are already equipped with separate tanks to use low-sulphur fuel in harbour areas or they cannot enter first-world ports. Scaremongering the public by erroneous statements of how much clean air will cost them without offsetting the HK$3 billion in current medical costs is a blatant omission.

London will very soon have more than 330 hybrid electric double-decker buses running in its busy streets, which Hong Kong needs to emulate.

James Middleton, chairman, energy committee, Clear the Air