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September, 2012:

If Beijing want to win friends in Hong Kong, they could clean up the air


Submitted by admin on Sep 16th 2012, 12:00am



Tim Noonan

Forget patriotic lessons, the gents up north could win respect by cutting HK emissions and moving marathon to the city centre

It’s been such a contentious spell around here recently that I feel compelled to have a quick word with my good friends up in Beijing. Gents, I know you have a tough job taking care of 1.3 billion people, and while I certainly can’t say I approve of everything you do, there are a few things I do approve of. I just need a moment or two to come up with them. In the meantime, I have a proposition for you that should help engender the love and respect you so desperately desire from the people of Hong Kong.

The best news is that it’s a sporting proposition and I know how patriotic you guys get over your sport.

But first, whose idea was this forced implementation of a “moral and national” education of mainland history for the people of Hong Kong that conveniently omits a couple of particularly revolting incidents like the Cultural Revolution and Tiananmen Square?

Guys, no matter what your sycophants on the ground here may tell you, you can’t force the people of Hong Kong to like you. The genie is out of the bottle and it ain’t going back in. We have a relatively free press around here and as such a free mind, so when thousands took to the streets over the past few weeks to protest, it could not have been a shock.

Honestly, why not just roll the tanks through the middle of town because it would probably be less threatening than the mandatory teaching of a “moral and national” education? Naturally the outrage was swift and unified, so your boy here decided to shelve national education for now. But here is what you must know; since the people of Hong Kong are the only ones in China who are allowed to publicly protest, they seem to have adopted this fiduciary right to speak up for their brothers and sisters on the mainland who cannot.

Now what could possibly be more patriotic than that? They have a lot of love for the country, just not for the people who run it. But all that could change in a heartbeat and not just for Hong Kong but also for the world in general, which is growing increasingly nervous over your economic and military might. Why not make a profound and significant difference in a completely unthreatening and benign manner?

The way to Hong Kong people’s hearts is through their lungs. We have a first-world economy and third-world air, which is completely unacceptable.

Last year the Hong Kong government had a budget surplus of close to US$10 billion to go along with accumulated reserves of US$300 billion.

You think with that kind of money on hand we would be able to breathe the air around here. But no, because at Hong Kong’s core we have an odious property cartel that is greed personified. There is, according to my friend Mike Kilburn at Civic Exchange, “a moral failure” among the city’s elite to clean the air.

This is where you come in, Beijing. You guys announce that you are going to take US$1 billion out of the swelling reserves to pay for the mandatory change over to catalytic converters on every single bus, mini bus and light goods delivery vehicle – the primary source of urban spew – and then sit back as the sky gets bluer and the streets get truer.

Now the all-important sporting angle comes in when you decide that you need to advertise this thing. Call it the “China Clean Air Initiative,” not Hong Kong – call it China because you are the cats responsible for this. You then make the long overdue move to bring the Hong Kong marathon out of the boondocks and highways of western Kowloon and stick it smack dab in the middle of the city. Tokyo and New York can find a way to run a race through the heart of the city but we can’t? Get over yourselves for one Sunday morning a year Hong Kong and take a detour. One of the most stunning urban vistas in the world with palatable air and blue skies deserves to be front row centre. Now sell this thing hard, Beijing. World-class athletes can run through the city so there should be no worries about walking. Come breathe our fresh air and why not do a little shopping while you’re here.

I don’t see a single possible downside to this thing and even though it’s my idea, I’m happy to let the politicians and property boys take credit for it. So Beijing, if you want to force an education on the people here, start with a clean air education. Believe me, the world will take notice. And, most importantly, the people of Hong Kong will be getting a “moral and national” education they will never forget.


Clean Air



Source URL (retrieved on Sep 16th 2012, 7:19am):

Guangzhou tries to sort out its rubbish problem

Submitted by admin on Jul 15th 2012, 12:00am

Sally Wang

Three pilot rubbish-sorting schemes kicked off in Guangzhou last week, with officials and the media going all out to promote them as a long-term solution to mountains of waste engulfing the city.

But following strong opposition to government plans to build five incinerators in the city, the launch of the pilot schemes has met with a mixed response.

Civil servants, housewives, students and volunteers are being mobilised to lead a campaign to make sure everyone knows about the new policy, with several communities involved in the pilot schemes, all based on a Taiwanese experience.

The government has also vowed to spend more on sorting and transport of rubbish and set up a public committee to monitor its expenditure. It spent 2.2 billion yuan (HK$2.67 billion) on handling garbage last year.

By the end of this year, all the communities on more than 130 streets will be part of garbage-sorting trial schemes. The Guangzhou Daily reported that the city plans to fully adopt rubbish sorting by 2015.

Many people have said that sorting garbage to separate out recyclable items is much better than just burning everything in incinerators. However, while most support the idea, some have concerns about how the sorting will actually work and have doubts about the government’s commitment.

One of the pilot schemes features ‘volume-based fees’. Each family will receive 60 bags a month – 30 for kitchen waste and 30 for other rubbish – designed to hold 3kg a day. Residents will be charged more if they need more bags.

Some are concerned that costs could increase – each household now pays a garbage fee of 15 yuan a month – and others have complained that the scheme is unfair to large families.

The Information Times says the scheme is designed to reduce the average amount of household waste to 1kg per person each day.

People have also raised concerns about who will profit from the mandatory use of special bags. ‘I want to know where the extra bag fee will go and which company produces the garbage bags,’ said Wang Xin, a Haizhu district resident.

Under another scheme, people will have to sort their rubbish at home into three bags, and trucks will arrive at specified times to collect it. If they miss the collecting time, residents will have to wait until the following day. People worry about the inconvenience, with those who do not work regular hours likely to often miss waste collection times.

Privacy concerns have been raised over the third scheme, under which special identification marks will be attached to each bag so that the origin of the waste can be determined, allowing the authorities to discover who is not sorting their rubbish properly and impose fines.

Yu Shangfeng, head of the garbage-sorting division at the city’s urban management committee, was quoted by the Southern Metropolis Daily as saying that the government would decide after the pilot programmes whether to combine the three schemes into one or whether to adopt different schemes in different communities.

One woman taking part in a pilot scheme said history showed that the city government had problems carrying out such schemes.

‘Guangzhou has had campaigns to control cigarettes and plastic bags, but they both went nowhere,’ she said. ‘Maybe this is just another show.’

She said she had previously asked the sanitation department how she should dispose of used batteries and had been told that even if they were handed in separately the department would still put them back with other garbage.

An online survey found that about 40 per cent of respondents were worried that even if they sorted their rubbish, the waste would still not be processed properly.

Some have asked whether the government will put in the necessary effort to educate residents, and especially the elderly, about garbage sorting.

‘No one has taught us how to do it and I really have no idea, not to mention my parents,’ said Zhang Bo, another Haizhu district resident in her 30s.

Ma Tian, a Panyu district resident, said he noticed that another rubbish bin of a different colour was placed in front of his building about a month ago, but he had no idea what it was for.

‘We just put garbage in whichever bin is not full,’ he said, adding that he had noticed that the garbage collectors just piled the rubbish into one truck anyway.

It is not the first time the city has attempted to introduce garbage sorting. It introduced bins for sorted rubbish more than 10 years ago, with little impact, and then ran a pilot programme in its Yuexiu district two years ago, again without much success.

Peng Peng, deputy director of the Guangdong Society of Economic Reform, attributed the previous failures to a lack of accompanying measures and publicity.

‘Although residents sorted their garbage, the waste was still mixed together in the process of collecting and transporting,’ he said.

‘The garbage sorting was practically meaningless.’


The amount of Guangzhou’s rubbish that is dumped in landfills. The city produces 18,000 tonnes of domestic rubbish a day


Waste Management


Street Furniture



Waste Management

Source URL (retrieved on Sep 16th 2012, 6:31am):

Idling ban rendered useless for 40 days as pollution levels soar


Submitted by admin on Sep 15th 2012, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong


Cheung Chi-fai

The idling engine ban was rendered useless for two-thirds of July and August because the weather was too hot or too wet.

Drivers were allowed to ignore it on a total of 40 days during the two-month period under the controversial legislation’s weather-related exemptions.

These were days on which the Observatory issued the very hot weather warning – of 33 degrees Celsius or above – or rainstorm warnings.

It meant drivers were allowed to keep their engines running to power the air conditioning. But the exemption days – 21 in July and 19 in August – came as roadside air pollution hit record levels.

The air pollution index reached 212 in Central on August 2, the highest level yet recorded in the city with the exception of a sandstorm in 2010.

One green activist said it showed the idling ban, implemented last December, was no more than a “paper tiger”.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Melonie Chau Yuet-cheung said: “It is like it never existed.” She said the ineffectiveness of the ban had been expected. For that reason, trying to amend it to “give it some teeth” might not be worthwhile.

“It would be much better and more effective to focus on the sources of the air pollution, like the heavy trucks running in the streets,” she said.

Despite that, the first two penalty tickets were issued for breaches of the ban last month.

They were handed to the drivers of a coach and a light van, who were fined HK$450 each.

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said the coach driver was caught by inspectors with his engine idling in Tung Chung on August 14 while two days later, the van driver received a ticket in Yuen Long.

All drivers are permitted to keep their engines running, while parked for three minutes every hour. But the ban is lifted for the whole of any day on which one of the weather warnings is issued.

The exemptions were included in the watered-down legislation that was passed on March 5 last year.

Exemptions were also applied to taxi stands, the first two minibuses at stands, private school buses and coaches or buses with at least one passenger.

Further exemptions were added after the bill was passed for vehicles of welfare agencies and Salvation Army centres for senior citizens.

Green activists called for a better pollution warning system after two days of “life-threatening” levels at the start of last month. Roadside readings in Central hovered at or above 190 for 20 hours from August 1.



Air Pollution

Idling ban

Source URL (retrieved on Sep 15th 2012, 5:23am):

C Y Leung names Christine Loh new environmental undersecretary


Submitted by admin on Sep 13th 2012, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong


Cheung Chi-fai and Lo Wei

Civic Exchange founder’s appointment as new undersecretary for environment raises hopes for action on air quality and waste issues

The arrival of an environmental heavyweight at the Environment Bureau could see Hong Kong’s green policy moving in the right direction.

Christine Loh Kung-wai, a former lawmaker and head of think tank Civic Exchange, has been appointed undersecretary for the environment.

Loh, moving into government for the first time, was keen to start work with her new boss, Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing, as soon as the appointment was announced yesterday.

Loh’s priority tasks will be air quality, waste management and nature conservation, and she believes positive changes can be made regardless of other battles the government is now fighting.

Loh said she decided to join the administration not only because she believed Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying was serious about improving the environment, but also because it gave her the opportunity to influence the public policy she has spent 12 years researching.

“The one thing I have not done in my career is to be on the executive side, where I have a chance to set policy,” she said. “This is something I’d like to do now. I think it is possible to do something within the C.Y. Leung administration, together with the minister.”

Loh also revealed that she did not seek the post but was approached by Leung. She had previously met the chief executive at a tea-gathering with the recruitment committee he formed in June, and had met him and Wong several times before that.

The new undersecretary has been critical of the public policy decision-making process, but said she would co-operate with the civil service and learn how to move things within government. Trained as a lawyer and having worked as a commodity trader, Loh ventured into politics as an appointed legislative councillor in 1992. She won another two direct elections in 1995 and 1998, but decided to quit before the 2000 poll.

At the height of her political career, she created a bill to protect the harbour from reclamation and challenged inheritance rights of New Territories males.

Loh later founded Civic Exchange. She was also a senior policy adviser to C40, an international climate change network.

But her extensive networks and career profile have also raised eyebrows and suspicions.

Her think tank received local and overseas funding for projects, including HK$740,000 from CLP Power, on a nuclear project last year. Civic Exchange also received HK$74,000 from ExxonMobil and Koala Resources on a conservation policy project established in 2010.

Koo Wai-muk, a Greenpeace campaigner, said the government should increase transparency in its dealings and negotiations with power firms, given their perceived links with Loh.

“We are worried Wong might be less competent in negotiating with the power firms, while Loh might be too lax,” he said.

“If this is the case, it could plunge the public into a crisis of confidence.”

Loh said yesterday that none of those funded projects were for the sponsors’ purposes and those sponsors would have no influence on her new job.

Cheung Hok-ming, vice-chairman of the Heung Yee Kuk rural body, said the kuk would co-operate with officials on environmental matters.

“We are open-minded towards Loh,” he said.



Civic Exchange

C Y Leung

Source URL (retrieved on Sep 13th 2012, 5:04am):

Loh named environment deputy, amid cabinet appointments


Submitted by eldes.tran on Sep 12th 2012, 1:22pm

News›Hong Kong


Lai Ying-kit

Christine Loh Kung-wai, an outspoken critic of Hong Kong environmental policy, was named undersecretary for the environment on Wednesday morning, amid a flurry of other appointments.

Loh, 56, a former legislator and chief executive of the policy think tank Civic Exchange, will take office immediately, the Chief Executive’s Office announced.

Two other undersecretaries and two political assistants were named to the cabinet of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying on Wednesday.

Deputy police commissioner John Lee Ka-chiu, 55, was appointed undersecretary for security; and incumbent Undersecretary for Transport and Housing Yau Shing-mu, 52, will remain in that post. Yau takes office on Saturday and Lee on October 1.

Ronald Chan Ngok-pang, 29, was appointed political assistant to the secretary for constitutional and mainland affairs. He was a special assistant to former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

Caspar Tsui Ying-wai will continue as political assistant to the secretary for home affairs. Tsui, a member of the pro-government Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, took up the position in June 2008.

Chan assumes office immediately and Tsui will begin on October 8.

The Chief Executive’s Office said these appointments were the result of recommendations by the head of their respective policy bureaus.

Leung has now appointed five undersecretaries and two political assistants for his 12 ministers.

Undersecretary for Financial Services and the Treasury Julia Leung Fung-yee and undersecretary for Home Affairs Florence Hui Hiu-fai have been in office since July 1, when Leung’s terms started.

Under the political appointment system introduced by Tsang in 2008, each minister has an undersecretary and a political assistant.

“The selection process for undersecretaries and political assistants for the remaining bureaus is under way,” the Chief Executive’s Office said.



Leung Chun-Ying


Source URL (retrieved on Sep 12th 2012, 9:02pm):

Description: appt.jpg

Government failing to curb pollution

SCMP letter 11 Sept. 2012

Policy causes pollution and transport policy causes roadside pollution.

For a long time, Hong Kong has stuck by its “property plus trains” model as the backbone for transport planning, along with the building of more expressways to mitigate the effects of Hong Kong’s chronic and worsening congestion.

This has resulted in the continued expansion of the urban rail system with the associated station malls and property projects managed by the MTR Corporation.

Also, between 2001 and 2010, the building of new expressways and of new property developments with parking, combined with subsidised roadside parking, has encouraged the registration of an additional 74,398 private cars. This brings the number of private cars to more than 415,000.

During the same period, efforts to reduce pollution have seen franchised bus numbers drop from 6,400 to 5,844, yet roadside pollution has worsened.

Looking at the Transport Department’s latest environment section in the annual digest for 2011, its activities are still focused around dictating consolidation of bus routes in congested areas as the principal method of controlling roadside pollution, such as plans to take 32 bus journeys off Nathan Road per day.

In the meantime, the “everywhere, anytime” policy for private car drivers has resulted in snarling congestion across the city, which seems to result in the virtuous circle of ever more road and rail infrastructure projects to solve the problem.

When other cities have looked to reduce access for cars to urban centres and embraced bus priority schemes as a way to reduce pollution, why have our own property-developing MTR and road-building Transport Department not taken any meaningful steps to manage congestion in our city?

Edward Rossiter, Tai Wai

Health and terrorism fears over new Gloucestershire incinerator

AN incinerator would reduce residents’ life expectancies by 11 years and put the area at risk of a terrorist attack, experts claim.

Plans to build a £500million waste burner at Javelin Park near Haresfield could impact the health of people living within a 15-mile radius, engulfing both Gloucester and Cheltenham, Dr Dick Van Steenis said on Wednesday night.

Description: WARNING:  Dr Dick Van Steenis, middle, with Ian Butler (Hardwicke Parish Council chairman) and Anna Mozul (Quedgeley Parish Council chairman).

WARNING: Dr Dick Van Steenis, middle, with Ian Butler (Hardwicke Parish Council chairman) and Anna Mozul (Quedgeley Parish Council chairman).

The retired GP said his research into areas downwind of incinerators show an increase in baby defects, deaths among babies and deaths from heart attacks and cancer.

Within five years, there would be 1,200 extra deaths and residents would have to foot a £280million NHS bill, according to Dr Van Steenis, who has lectured worldwide about the issue.

Dr Van Steenis said: “It is now up to the people to rise up and say enough is enough. We don’t want any extra deaths. These incinerators are junk and they kill.

“We will start to see babies being born with defects. People should be worried about this. They will come first, and then heart attacks and cancers will follow within a few years.”

Dr Van Steenis recommends the use of plasma units, which he says are a cleaner and cheaper alternative.

He was talking to residents at Hardwicke Village Hall after parish councillors from Quedgeley and Hardwicke joined forces to protest against the plans.

Security risk expert Malcolm Cheshire, a Quedgeley resident of 27 years, warned at the meeting that the incinerator could also make the city a terrorist threat. He said: “Biological, chemical and radiological weapons could be created from certain chemicals and gases that are secreted from the site.”

Gloucestershire County Council’s Cabinet is likely to give a 25-year contract to Urbaser Balfour Beatty on Wednesday.

Councillor Stan Waddington, champion for waste, said: “This deal is good value for Gloucestershire and will help us deliver a green and affordable solution to our rubbish.”

The council hopes to save £190million over 25 years.

A UBB spokesperson said: “Dr Van Steenis has raised his concerns at a number of public inquiries in the country where his evidence on health effects and alternative technologies has been considered but not accepted.”

“All thermal treatment facilities must comply with the same stringent emissions limits.

“Energy from waste is a tried and tested technology and there are currently more than 350 operating throughout Europe.

“Had we have been invited to Dr Van Steenis’ presentation we would have been able to provide the alternative perspective, which is based on credible evidence rather than scare-mongering.

“The Health Protection Agency’s position is that well run and regulated modern Municipal Waste Incinerators are not a significant risk to public health. All thermal treatment facilities, including energy from waste and gasification plants, must comply with the same stringent emissions limits. Energy from waste is a tried and tested technology and there are currently more than 350 operating throughout Europe.”

They said security measures were already planned.

Athletics coach Paul Wright to quit Hong Kong for sake of son’s health

Pollution forces coach who transformed city’s athletics to leave just four months into contract

Sunday, 09 September, 2012, 12:00am

Richard Castka and John Carney

Description: 59979bcf904b425a55865391cc85a119.jpg

    Paul Wright

    Hong Kong’s athletics coach Paul Wright will leave his post in November after just over two years in the job, amid fears his son’s health problems are linked to the city’s high levels of pollution.

    Since Wright took the job in May 2010, Hong Kong athletics has seen a significant improvement, notably qualifying for the men’s 4×100 metres relay in the London Olympic Games.

    But Wright, 41, said despite being just four months into his two-year contract, his five-year-old son’s health had to come first.

    “[He] has struggled with respiratory infections since we came here so we are prioritising getting him home and well,” said UK-born Wright.

    “Some people have suggested the increased levels of air pollution are to blame, but we’re not sure what the problem is. We just know his immune system isn’t able to cope.

    “Our other three children are fine … but we’ve had one too many visits to the hospital with Caiden coughing up blood. So we decided to do something positive about it.”

    Wright does not yet have another job to go to, but says there are offers on the table. It is likely he will head back to the US, where his wife is from.

    Hong Kong Sports Institute chief executive Trisha Leahy credited Wright for the recent rise in athletic standards.

    “Paul is moving on after a very successful two years … He has been a consistently highly-motivated, positive and professional head coach,” said Leahy.

    Wright and his family are not the first to have been forced to leave Hong Kong because of air pollution recently.

    In May, Canadian Eric Bohm, the 68-year-old chief executive of green campaign group WWF, Hong Kong left after eight years of trying to save the city from environmental degradation.

    One in four people in Hong Kong are now considering leaving due to air pollution, a study by public policy think tank Civic Exchange found last year.

    Last month, Hong Kong choked under the worst smog recorded in the city. Residents were warned to stay indoors, away from the blanket of toxic haze.

    At the same time, roadside air pollution set a new record with the air pollution index hitting 212 in Central, its highest level yet.

    Incinerator – A tour of Shek Kwu Chau

    The China Daily video supplement was a bit delayed, but is now uploaded to the site and youtube now. Here’s a link: – with Martin and Patrick from SARDA


    Shanghai one up on HK

    SCMP Laisee 2 Sept. 2012

    Shanghai is upping the ante in its efforts to improve its air quality. Starting this month, the city will gradually start eliminating heavily polluting clunkers that environmental protection officials say produce at least half of Shanghai’s roadside pollution, the Shanghai Daily reports. There are some 230,000 old vehicles, making up about 12 per cent of Shanghai’s locally registered vehicles. These vehicles will be phased out by 2015 but the earlier the owners take them off the road, the bigger the subsidy they will get from the government. Owners of private cars will be offered 3,000 yuan (HK$3,700) to 32,000 yuan, officials say. Also, buses that travel between provinces are entitled to subsidies. But the subsidy will fall by half after 2014.
    This is a carrot-and-stick approach to the problem – an approach Hong Kong would do well to adopt, instead of pussyfooting around various vested interest groups.