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January, 2012:

Beijing releases key air pollution data; early results seem low compared to US Embassy results

By Associated Press, Published: January 21

BEIJING — Caving to public pressure, Beijing environmental authorities started releasing more detailed air quality data Saturday that may better reflect how bad the Chinese capital’s air pollution is. But one expert says measurements from the first day were low compared with data U.S. officials have been collecting for years.

The initial measurements were low on a day where you could see blue sky. After a week of smothering smog, the skies over the city were being cleared by a north wind.

The readings of PM2.5 — particulate matter less than 2.5 micrometers in size or about 1/30th the average width of a human hair — were being posted on Beijing’s environmental monitoring center’s website. Such small particulates can penetrate deep into the lungs, so measuring them is considered a more accurate reflection of air quality than other methods.

It is the first time Beijing has publicly revealed PM2.5 data and follows a clamor of calls by citizens on social networking sites tired of breathing in gray and yellow air. The U.S. Embassy measures PM2.5 from a device on its rooftop and releases the results, and some residents have even tested the air around their neighborhoods and posted the results online.

Beijing is releasing hourly readings of PM2.5 that are taken from one monitoring site about 4 miles (7 kilometers) west of Tiananmen Square, the monitoring center’s website said Saturday. It said the data was for research purposes and the public should only use it as a reference.

The reading at noon Saturday was 0.015 milligrams per cubic meter, which would be classed as “good” for a 24-hour exposure at that level, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards. The U.S. Embassy reading taken from its site on the eastern edge of downtown Beijing said its noon reading was “moderate.” Its readings are posted on Twitter.

Steven Andrews, an environmental consultant who has studied Beijing’s pollution data since 2006, said he was “already a bit suspicious” of Beijing’s PM2.5 data. Within the 24-hour period to noon Saturday, Beijing reported seven hourly figures “at the very low level” of 0.003 milligrams per cubic meter.

“In all of 2010 and 2011, the U.S. Embassy reported values at or below that level only 18 times out of over 15,000 hourly values or about 0.1 percent of the time,” said Andrews. “PM2.5 concentrations vary by area so a direct comparison between sites isn’t possible, but the numbers being reported during some hours seem surpisingly low.”

The Beijing center had promised to release PM2.5 data by the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year on Monday. It has six sites that can test for PM2.5 and 27 that can test for the larger, coarser PM10 particles that are considered less hazardous. The center is expected to buy equipment and build more monitoring sites to enable PM2.5 testing.

Beijing wasn’t expected to include PM2.5 in its daily roundups of the air quality anytime soon. Those disclosures, for example “light” or “serious,” are based on the amount of PM10, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide in the air.

Beijing interprets air quality using less stringent standards than the U.S. Embassy, so often when the government says pollution is “light,” the embassy terms it “hazardous.”

“There has been tremendous amounts of attention in the Chinese media — whichever newspaper you pick up, whichever radio station you listen to, channel you watch — they are all talking about PM2.5 and how levels are so high,” said Andrews.

“What has been so powerful is that people are skeptical, and I think rightly skeptical,” about the government’s descriptions of data, he said.



Beijing center’s readings (in Chinese):

The U.S. Embassy’s Twitter feed:

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

Beijing begins PM2.5 measure of air quality

Updated: 2012-01-21 15:56


BEIJING – Beijing’s environment authority on Saturday launched the much-anticipated PM2.5 measure of air quality, fulfilling its promise of publishing the data ahead of the Spring Festival holiday, which starts on Sunday.

The Beijing Environment Protection Monitoring Center said its monitoring station at the city’s second ring road had detected 0.003 micrograms of PM (particular matter) 2.5 per cubic meter, suggesting the air quality is good.

The PM2.5 gauge is considered stricter than Beijing’s previous standard of PM10, as it monitors “fine” particles 2.5 microns or less in diameter.

A fierce online public debate on PM2.5 and PM10 began at the end of 2011 when it came to light that air-quality monitoring results released by Beijing’s weather forecast station and the US Embassy in Beijing often differed.

On Saturday, the embassy’s air-quality rating also suggested the air is “good.”

Zhao Yue, deputy head of the Beijing Environment Protection Monitoring Center, said cold air from Friday helped blow away “hazardous” pollution persisting in the air due to week-long smoggy weather.

However, he pointed out Saturday’s PM2.5 reading can only vouch for air quality in Xicheng district, where the city’s only PM2.5 monitoring station was set up.

He said local authorities plan to build a citywide network of PM2.5 monitoring stations by the end of this year.

Zhao did not give the exact number of stations to be built. But the city currently has set up 27 PM10 monitoring stations to provide real-time data covering in the whole city.

Yu Jianhua, an air official with the Beijing Environmental Protection Bureau, said the city government has spent 10 years taking aggressive air pollution control measures, including eliminating heavy-polluting vehicles and using clean energy for heating, in the hope of meeting the national PM10 standard of 100 micrograms per cubic meter of air. However, the average PM10 reading last year still hung at 120 micrograms.

Although the national standard on classifying the PM2.5 reading has yet to come out, public hearings by China’s environment ministry earlier this month suggested the future national PM2.5 standard may be set at 35 micrograms per cubic meter of air on average a year.

Yu said PM2.5 on average accounts for less than half of the PM10 concentrations. It means, under the present air-quality conditions, Beijing’s average PM2.5 rating could not meet the pending national standard.

He said research showed that 50 percent of the total PM2.5 particles in the air are contributed by automobile exhausts, and another 23 percent are brought by floating dust.

Beijing’s geological situation means that air pollution is likely. The city sits in a plain area surrounded by mountains in three sides, Yu explained.

He said the municipal government has laid down a series of measures to tighten air-pollution control. Among them, a primary target is to introduce a Euro 5 emission standard to replace the current Euro 4 by the end of the year pressuring auto makers to upgrade products to reduce emission discharge.

Beijing has 5 million vehicles on road, meaning urban traffic is very congested. Experts say vehicle emissions contain more fine particles when automobiles drive at low speed.

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HKSARG congratulates Dr Margaret Chan on her nomination as WHO Director-General

Hong Kong (HKSAR) – The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (HKSARG) extends its heartiest congratulations to Dr Margaret Chan on her nomination by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Executive Board today (January 18, Geneva time) for a second term as Director-General of the Organization

La pollution menace la capitale de la finance | Green et Vert

Hong-Kong : La pollution menace la capitale de la finance

Selon le département de protection de l’environnement, la pollution à Hong-Kong a été la pire de l’histoire pendant l’année 2011. Un véritable problème pour l’ancienne colonie britannique qui voit les cadres de la finance internationale partir pour Singapour à cause de cela. Un changement serait-il possible?


Le parc automobile, vieillissant, de Hong Kong pose des problèmes de qualité de l’air. ©Gaspard Mathé

Les trois stations principales de mesure de la pollution le long des routes ont indiqué un niveau supérieur à 100 pendant 20% de l’année 2011. Un tel niveau signifie qu’au moins un des principaux polluants mesurés dépasse la limite réglementaire maximale. La situation est 10 fois pire qu’en 2005, où le niveau 100 n’avait été atteint que pendant 2% de l’année.

Un parc automobile très polluant

Si les hongkongais ont l’habitude d’accuser les usines du voisin communiste chinois, force est de constater que la pollution est aussi une affaire locale. Les niveaux de pollution sur l’ensemble des stations de mesure, et non plus seulement sur les trois principales, sont stables. Or les stations de mesure des nouveaux territoires, les plus proches de la république populaire de Chine, sont beaucoup plus représentatives de la pollution héritée des usines de la province du Guangdong en république populaire.

Alors, à qui la faute? Selon le département de protection de l’environnement, c’est l’âge moyen des véhicules en circulation et l’augmentation de leur nombre qui est à l’origine du problème. Pour y remédier, le gouvernement va installer des pots catalytiques sur les bus les plus anciens. Une mesure assez anecdotique qui ne va pas réconcilier les ONG environnementales avec l’administration.

Une politique environnementale très permissive

En effet, selon plusieurs de ces ONG, le gouvernement a volontairement retardé l’introduction de nouveaux standards de qualité de l’air, afin de pouvoir tranquillement mener à bien ses grands travaux d’infrastructure. Au nombre desquels on compte une nouvelle piste pour l’aéroport (la troisième) et des usines d’incinération des déchets. Selon James Middleton, de l’ONG ‘Clear the Air’, cette politique permissive en matière de pollution vient de très haut:

les fonctionnaires du département de protection de l’environnement ont aussi des enfants qui partagent le même air que nous. Cette politique vient clairement de décisions prises au sommet de l’administration. C’est une forme de mépris et de manque d’égards à la population de la part d’une administration dont l’un des devoirs primordiaux est d’assurer la bonne santé des citoyens.

Toujours est-il que l’administration pourrait avoir à se pencher très rapidement sur le sujet de la pollution de l’air. Plusieurs multinationales de la finance ont déplacé leurs QG Asie de Hong-Kong vers Singapour, qui dispose des mêmes avantages pour les banquiers (économie ouverte, personnel qualifié et multilingue, …) que Hong-Kong sans ses inconvénients : la qualité de l’air y est bien meilleure. Pour une cité qui abrite les sièges de HSBC ou Standard Chartered, la finance est une industrie trop importante pour ignorer des facteurs qui pourrait la faire fuir. Si le maintien de son statut de capitale asiatique de la finance passe par la réduction de la pollution, il est fort à parier que la nouvelle administration de Hong-Kong qui sortira des urnes pendant cette année 2012 saura y apporter le soin nécessaire


Hong Kong: The pollution threatens the finance capital

According to the department of environmental protection, pollution in Hong Kong was the worst in history during 2011. A real problem for the former British colony that sees executives from international finance to Singapore because of this. A change would be possible?

The fleet age, from Hong Kong poses problems of air quality. © Gaspard Mathé

The three main stations for measuring pollution along roads indicated a level higher than 100 for 20% of 2011. This level means that at least one of the main pollutants measured exceeds the statutory maximum. The situation is 10 times worse than in 2005, when the level had reached 100 for only 2% of the year.

A highly polluting fleet

If Hong Kong were used to accuse the Chinese Communist neighbor’s plants, it is clear that pollution is a local matter. Pollution levels on all stations, and not only on the three main stable. Now the measuring stations of the New Territories, closest to the People’s Republic of China, are much more representative of the inherited pollution plants in Guangdong Province People’s Republic.

So, whose fault? According to the department of environmental protection is the average age of vehicles on the road and increasing the number that is causing the problem. To remedy this, the government will install catalytic converters on older buses. A fairly anecdotal wrong reconcile environmental NGOs with the administration.

Environmental policy very permissive

According to many of these NGOs, the government deliberately delayed the introduction of new standards for air quality in order to quietly carry out its major infrastructure projects. Among which include a new runway to the airport (the third) and waste incineration plants. According to James Middleton, of the NGO ‘Clear the Air’, this permissive policy on pollution is very high:

officials of the department of environmental protection also have children who share the same air as us. This policy is clearly top-level decisions of the administration. It is a form of contempt and disrespect for the people from administration, one of whose primary duties is to ensure the health of citizens.

Still, the administration may have to look very quickly on the subject of air pollution. Several multinationals have moved their headquarters finance Asia Hong Kong to Singapore, which has the same benefits for bankers (open economy, skilled and multilingual, …) that Hong Kong without its drawbacks: the air quality is much better. For a city that houses the headquarters of HSBC and Standard Chartered, the finance industry is too important to ignore factors that could cause it to flee. While maintaining its status as capital of the Asian financial means reducing pollution, it is likely that the new administration in Hong Kong that exit polls during the year 2012 will make the necessary care.

Lord Norman Foster: We need Victorian spirit to build Thames airport

Norman Foster says we need to think big again, and the big thing he wants to do is build a mega-airport in the Thames Estuary. To do this, we must rediscover the spirit of the Victorians.

Description: Options for airport expansion

An artist’s impression of the Thames Estuary airport Photo: PA

By Neil Tweedie

8:30AM GMT 21 Jan 2012

“The railways you ride on, the sewage system you depend on, were the result of someone a long time ago deciding that it was important to invest in the future,” he says. “We in Britain invented the concept of infrastructure.”

The master architect believes we have lost our mojo. He wants to give us a grand projet: the Thames Hub, a vast airport at the mouth of the river built partly on reclaimed land and forming the centre of a high-speed rail network bypassing London and linking the rest of the country with Europe.

Cost? He estimates £50 billion including a new Thames Barrier to provide tidal power for the airport, equipped with four runways and able to operate 24 hours a day, well away from London. But detractors think it could be nearer £70 billion.

“Can we afford not to afford it?” asks Lord Foster. “If we do not modernise our transport infrastructure we will slide down the international scale.”

Foster has a big ally in Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, who this week claimed No 10 backing for an estuary airport. Mr Johnson floated the idea of a man-made island airport, christened Boris Island. Lord Foster’s proposal uses Kent’s Isle of Grain and reclaimed land.

Britain, says the architect, risks losing its status as an aviation hub. Heathrow, approached over London, is at 95 per cent capacity, handling 68  million passengers a year. Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam have more runways and serve more destinations such as China and Brazil. A third runway for Heathrow and second runway for Gatwick have been ruled out.

Better to build a new airport for 150 million passengers a year, says Lord Foster. Planes will take off over the sea, reducing noise pollution. The only creatures affected will be birds, for which the RSPB will mount a fierce defence. The architect promises to build an eco-island off Essex. The £20 billion cost of the airport itself would be mitigated by selling Heathrow for £12 billion. The North will be connected by a “spine” incorporating high-speed rail and broadband.

But what of the glacial planning system? “Even if you take out five years for planning we still take three times to complete a major infrastructure initiative than they do in Asia,” he says, citing the rapid construction of his Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong on reclaimed land.

And the money? “It is difficult in these times to find a good return on investment. This would be incredibly attractive to pension and sovereign wealth funds.”

But opponents argue that closing Heathrow would result in major economic disruption, with 76,000 people working at the airport and hundreds of businesses sited to take advantage of it. Mr Johnson’s backing appears to have backfired. He was accused of crude electioneering — many living under Heathrow’s flightpath vote in the mayoral election — and angered the Liberal Democrats.

Will this hub be built? Parliament has already passed an Act allowing the building of a Thames Estuary airport. That was in 1973 and we are still waiting.

Swap dirty diesel trucks for cash

South China Morning Post

How many more insults can this administration take over its proven failure to provide us (and itself) with such a basic human requirement as clean air?

Your editorials and correspondents have suggested taking filthy diesel trucks and buses off the streets without delay, even at taxpayers’ expense. It is argued that the benefits will far outweigh the costs.

This is my attempt to convince the government to act.

These cash-for-clunker programmes in some countries (where the government offers cash incentives to replace dirty vehicles) were a huge success during the last financial crisis. They can help the environment and the economy and have proved to be a very effective way to get old and dirty vehicles off the roads. Previous incentives were too small-scale to work.

The offers that are made must be substantial so that the pre-Euro IV vehicles are removed from our roads without further delay.

Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah has asked citizens to suggest the best use of taxpayers’ money ahead of next month’s budget. It would be a major breakthrough if he listened to us so we could all breathe more easily.

H. P. Kerner, Sai Kung

Waste Planning

Download PDF : APP-Waste-Planning-Journal-Article-Oct2011 (1)

CE rejects criticism of clean air delays


CE rejects criticism of clean air delays
The Chief Executive, Donald Tsang, has denied that the government delayed the introduction of new air quality objectives, to allow major infrastructure projects to proceed under the older, more lenient standards. He promised legislators that the construction of a third runway at the airport would abide by the new, tougher standards, even before they’re implemented in around three years’ time. Mr Tsang said that the government’s had to do a lot of preparatory work to pave the way for the new air quality objectives.

Michael Tien struggles through a fog of information

South China Morning Post – 20 Jan 2012

RTHK’s Backchat programme yesterday produced more fireworks on the topic of Hong Kong’s air quality. Professor Tony Hedley, who is an acknowledged world expert on public health and the environment, described the government’s announcement of new air quality objectives (AQOs) as “disappointing, chaotic, out of control”.

“We have been talking about this for 22 years,” he said. “Today we have some of the worst air quality in the world, certainly by the standard of a developed economy… It is quite clear and I think it is official, the government is prepared to trade off child health in favour of business infrastructure development.”

The new measures “were unlikely to make any meaningful difference to the health impacts of the population”.

Jim Middleton, chairman of Clear the Air, said environment chief Edward Yau should be fired for his dilatory approach to improving the air, adding he must have been instructed to act this way to enable the government to continue with its infrastructure projects.

Mike Kilburn, head of environmental strategy at the Civic Exchange, said it would be challenging to met the mainland’s new objectives while Hong Kong’s would not be since they were so lax and would do little to improve air quality.

So it wasn’t exactly a public relations success for the government.

Some of the lighter moments were provided (unwittingly) by co-host Michael Tien, New People’s Party deputy and former rail bigwig. “Not being very technically oriented in this field, I kind of get the gist of it,” he said, as he painfully took us through his learning curve. “You have economic development, you have infrastructure development and this regional influence…” You would have expected him to have a better grasp of the subject.

Waste plan must include recycling

South China Morning Post – 20 Jan 2012

I have been very disappointed to learn about the government’s proposal to charge for solid waste.

This is not because I do not support efforts to reduce the volumes of waste generated in Hong Kong. However, the government is once again proposing a short-sighted solution to what is a pressing problem.

Most countries which have introduced this kind of waste-charge system have made it part of an integrated package, with a good recycling system and facilities which enable the public to distinguish between different kinds of waste. Also, regular and convenient collection methods are provided.

This is not the case in Hong Kong. I still cannot find a place to leave empty glass bottles for recycling. I have no choice but to throw them in the rubbish bin.

How can the government simply introduce a waste charge for the public without ensuring there is a comprehensive recycling network?

It is acting with indecent haste and I wonder if it has considered the possible consequences of its actions.

Some Hong Kong citizens, in order to avoid paying the waste charges, might just leave rubbish on the streets. Imagine the manpower and other resources that would be required to clean up this mess. And what sort of impression would this give to our visitors?

Some households might even accumulate rubbish at home rather than pay the charge.

If that happens, I dread to think what conditions will be like in some of the tiny flats we have in Hong Kong. It could also lead to domestic problems.

It is important to promote the need for us to have simpler lifestyles and recycle, not to reduce waste by charging.

I wish to stress again that without a good recycling system, this charging policy is bound to fail.

It will leave the public feeling discontented with the new policy and only cause grievances.

I hope the administration will shift its focus and come up with policies that have long-term benefits for society.

C. C. Chan, Hung Hom