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January 14th, 2012:

Should Hong Kong build a third airport runway?

By Vanessa Ko | December 31, 2011, 12:03 AM PST

HONG KONG – Airport Authority Hong Kong said Hong Kong International Airport
will need to add a new runway – it’s third – in order to meet future demands
of cargo and passenger traffic.

But its proposal will cost taxpayers $17 billion, after factoring in
inflation, making it the city’s most expensive infrastructure project yet.

Critics are calling for a thorough environmental assessment before any
decision is made, but time constraints will make such a report unlikely: the
government will decide over the next few months whether to give the proposal
the green light.

Hong Kong’s airport has the most world’s most air-cargo traffic and last
year was third in terms of international air passenger flow, behind London
and Paris.

The two existing runways are expected to be saturated in use by 2020 if a
third one is not added. The new runway would be built on reclaimed land
extending from the airport’s location on Lantau Island.

To further bolster the proposal, the AAHK announced on Thursday that a
survey of the public found three quarters of respondents support the
three-runway plan – a “clear consensus,” as the AAHK said in a statement.

Few question that the addition is necessary for Hong Kong to maintain its
hub status. It is estimated that the project would also help bring in $117
billion in economic benefits over 50 years until 2061. These benefits
include the creation of thousands of jobs.

But critics say overall benefits are diminished by environmental drawbacks.

The Civic Party, a liberal democratic party, has called for a detailed
environmental assessment. Such a study would measure the effect that
construction and dredging might have on surrounding waters (populated by
rare dolphins that are cute to boot) as well as the level of noise pollution
for residents in the area.

WWF in Hong Kong has questioned whether evolving carbon-tax rules might
lower the expected demand for flights, and has expressed concern over
increased greenhouse gases as a result of busier aviation traffic.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Toyotaboy95

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Donald Tsang empire building – never mind the air we breathe

The PRD mega companies like Foxconn have moved out to Chongqing and Hubei.
PRD workers from Jan 1st will have a pay increase mandated again. The
aircargo that used to come from PRD to world airports via HKG is now far
reduced. The aircargo in 2011 was down 18+% on the previous year.They intend
to build a fast rail tunnel between HK airport and Shenzhen airport. This is
a good idea since Shenzhen has more domestic flights than HK to China
airports. Meanwhile UPS has based its asian hub at Shenzhen airport 50 kms
from HK. Shenzhen’s second runway is in operation and they are building a
third. Federal Express asian hub is in Guangzhou which intends to have 5
runways. In order to fuel the HK airport with cargo the HK Govt decided on
another white elephant (beyond the white elephant fast rail to nowhere 30kms
east of Guangzhou) – that is the HK Zhuhai Macau road traffic only bridge.
This is to connect the HK Government’s (through its full owned subsidiary
Airport Authority of Hong Kong) 55% joint venture stake in Zhuhai airport
which has no international flights. Meanwhile all the landing slots in the
PRD are controlled by China’s military and HKG has failed so far to get any
approval of additional landing slots from them.
For the first time in years (because the HK Civil Aviation Authority refuses
to hire skilled competent air traffic controllers from overseas) there were
three near misses on Chep Lap Kok approaches in 2011. Meanwhile HK has the
eighth worst PM2.5 particulate matter suspended in air, in the world already
and Tsang has done next to zero to rid Hong Kong of its pathetic air quality
other than to further pander to the construction tycoons.

Rare Chinese white dolphin gets DNA bank


A Chinese white dolphin or Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin, nicknamed the pink dolphin, swims in waters off the coast of Hong Kong. Photo courtesy: AFP

HONG KONG, January 14, 2012 (AFP) – A Hong Kong conservation group said Saturday it has set up a DNA bank for the rare Chinese white dolphin, also known as the pink dolphin, in a bid to save the mammals facing a sharp population decline.

There are about 2,500 Chinese white dolphins in the Pearl River Delta region, the body of water between Macau and Hong Kong, with the majority of the mammals in Chinese waters and the rest in Hong Kong.

But experts say their number has dropped significantly in the past few years due to overfishing, an increase in maritime traffic, water pollution, habitat loss and coastal development.

In a bid to save the dwindling population, the Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong said it had joined hands with a Chinese university to set up a DNA bank, which will also spearhead a genetic research project.

“We hope to offer the scientific community a standardised genetic analysis platform to assess the sustainability of Chinese white dolphin populations,” Judy Chen, the foundation chairwoman said in a statement.

“The collected data will provide important reference to governments in the region for developing critical strategies of Chinese white dolphin conservation,” she added.

The biological samples of these dolphins will be sent to the DNA bank to investigate the environmental impacts on the mammal, the statement said.

The Chinese white dolphins, a sub-species of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins, are unique for their pink skin. They are listed as “near threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

The mammal was the official mascot at the handover ceremony when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, while dolphin watching is a favourite tourist attraction in Hong Kong.

Its population in Hong Kong has dropped from an estimated 158 in 2003 to only 75 in 2010, according to the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society.

Is Hong Kong’s pollution driving expats away?

Saturday 14 January 2012

The news that air pollution levels in Hong Kong were at a record high last year comes as little surprise to the expats who live in its smog

Description: A ferry crosses Hong Kong harbour under heavy smog

A ferry crosses Hong Kong harbour under heavy smog Photo: Paul Brown/Rex Features

By Leah Hyslop

9:20AM GMT 11 Jan 2012


According to a report published in The South China Morning Post earlier this week, air quality in Hong Kong was 10 times worse last year than in 2005, with pollution levels recorded at three roadside monitor stations above the “very high” mark more than 20 per cent of the time.

Such heavy pollution has obvious implications for the health of Hong Kong’s residents, who it is feared are at an increased risk of everything from respiratory problems to cancer, but also casts a shadow over the city-state’s future as a top international business centre.

Hong Kong is home to thousands of expat workers, many filling crucial positions in its thriving banking and finance sector, but the relentless grey haze which hangs over the former British colony could be increasingly driving those who can afford it to settle elsewhere.

Last year, a report from office supplier Regus revealed that an astonishing three-quarters of companies in Hong Kong saw pollution as a problem in recruiting and retaining international talent, while a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong found that nearly half (48 per cent) of its members knew of professionals who had left to escape the contaminated air.

Sylvia, a British banker who did not wish to give her full name, claims to know many expats who have returned to their home countries because of pollution, or asked for transfers to other major Asian hubs such as Singapore – largely, she says, due to health concerns.

“A friend of mine used to get plenty of headaches and migraines when he lived in Hong Kong for a few years; when he returned to the US the migraines stopped overnight,” she explains. “Another friend’s husband has a job here in Hong Kong but since his wife and daughter have asthma, they live in Singapore and he commutes here during the week.”

For those expats who choose to remain in Hong Kong, the desire to escape the smog often dictates where they live. Teacher Linda Kernan, originally from Kent, has ended up seeking refuge on one of Hong Kong’s outlying islands, where there are no cars. Even so, on some days from her flat she can barely see the high rise buildings just a few miles away over the sea.

“The air quality does seem to be getting worse,” she says. “When I arrived here 17 years ago, there were many more days with a blue sky but now they are few and far between. Before Christmas I had to spend about five hours walking around with a friend, waiting for his evening flight. When we walked through town I could feel my throat getting steadily worse and by evening it was painful to talk. It starts with a prickly throat and develops into a sore throat if you stay on the busy roads.

“I have four years left to retirement, and I would love to stay in Hong Kong, but I think I will have to put my health first and leave.”

So why exactly is Hong Kong’s pollution so bad? A reason often cited is its location at the mouth of China’s Pearl River Delta region, a booming economic centre home to over 70,000 factories, but the city’s own industrial emissions, heavy traffic and tall buildings which trap contaminated air in a so-called “canyon effect” are also major factors. The government has taken some steps to combat the problem in recent years – including introducing a ban on leaving stationary vehicles’ engines running for more than three minutes – but local pressure groups such as the Clean Air Network insist that more changes are necessary.

How much damage the pollution issue could end up wreaking on Hong Kong’s attractiveness as a business centre is subject to hot debate. Sylvia admits that there is a long-term risk that “Hong Kong will lose top talent and industry to its rival Singapore,” but believes that even if many expats leave, the economy will not be seriously hurt.

“There’s hundreds of Westerners arriving every day,” she says simply. “The downturn in Europe means there are more and more people seeking work, and more companies relocating their staff here. Hong Kong’s economy has always been better than most; it experiences downturns but then it recovers very quickly.”

Hans Leijten, the regional vice president for Regus in East Asia is not so sure however. “Singapore is seen as a much greener and cleaner alternative, and it is gaining a competitive edge particularly when it comes to expats with families,” he warns.

“While Hong Kong’s economy and job market are still extremely strong and it remains a top destination for expatriates, the quality of the environment and its effect on their health is certainly weighing heavily on the minds of those working there.”

Cut methane and soot to curb warming: scientists

South China Morning Post – 14 Jan 2011

Pollution reduction measures would lead to US$6.5tr in annual gains from fewer deaths, less global warming and increased crop yields

An international team of scientists says it has figured out how to slow global warming in the short run and prevent millions of deaths from dirty air: Stop focusing so much on carbon dioxide.

They say the key is to reduce emissions of two powerful and fast-acting causes of global warming – methane and soot.

Carbon dioxide is the chief greenhouse gas and the one world leaders have spent the most time talking about controlling.

Scientists say carbon dioxide from fossil fuels like coal and oil is a bigger overall cause of global warming, but reducing methane and soot offers quicker fixes.

Soot is also a big health problem, so dramatically cutting it with existing technology would save between 700,000 and 4.7 million lives each year, according to the team’s research published online on Thursday in the journal Science.

Since soot causes rainfall patterns to shift, reducing it would cut down on droughts in southern Europe and parts of Africa and ease monsoon problems in Asia, the study says.

Two dozen scientists from around the world ran computer models of 400 different existing pollution control measures and came up with 14 methods that attack methane and soot.

The idea has been around for more than a decade and the same authors worked on a United Nations report last year, but this new study is far more comprehensive.

All 14 methods – capturing methane from landfills and coal mines, cleaning up cook stoves and diesel engines, and changing agriculture techniques for rice paddies and manure collection – were being used efficiently in many places, but not universally adopted, said the study’s lead author, Drew Shindell of Nasa.

If adopted more widely, the scientists calculate that would reduce projected global warming by 0.5 degrees Celsius by 2050.

Without the measures, the global average temperature is projected to rise nearly 1.2 degrees in the next four decades. But by controlling methane and soot, the increase is projected to be only 0.7 degrees.

It also would increase the annual yield of key crops worldwide by almost 150 million tonnes.

Methane comes from landfills, farms, drilling for natural gas, and coal mining.

Soot, called black carbon by scientists, is a by-product of burning and is a big problem with cooking stoves using wood, dung and coal in developing countries and in some diesel fuels worldwide.

Reducing methane and black carbon is not the very best way to attack climate change, air pollution, or hunger, but reducing those chemicals are among the better ways and work simultaneously on all three problems, according to Shindell.

And shifting the pollution focus does not mean ignoring carbon dioxide. Shindell said: “The science says you really have to start on carbon dioxide even now to get the benefit in the distant future.”

The new research won wide praise from other scientists, including a conservative researcher who held a top post in the George W. Bush administration. “So rather than focusing only on carbon dioxide emissions, where we have to make a trade-off with energy prices, this strategy focuses on ‘win-win-win’ pathways that have benefits to human health, agriculture and stabilising the Earth’s climate,” said University of Minnesota ecology professor Jonathan Foley, who was not part of the study. “That’s brilliant.”

John Graham, who oversaw regulations at the Office of Management and Budget in the Bush administration and is now dean of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University, said: “This is an important study that deserves serious consideration by policymakers as well as scientists.”

The study even does a cost-benefit analysis to see if these pollution control methods are too expensive to be anything but fantasy. They actually pay off with benefits that are as much as 10 times the value of the costs, according to Shindell. The paper calculates that as of 2030, the pollution reduction methods would bring about US$6.5 trillion in annual benefits from fewer people dying from air pollution, less global warming and increased crop production.