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November, 2012:

Incinerator Study

Sent: Monday, January 30, 2012 19:05

To: ‘‘; ‘

Cc: Andrew Tristem; ‘Frances Pollitt’; ‘Kelly, Frank’; Elliott, Paul

Subject: FW: Incinerator study

Dear Mr Middleton

Thank you for your enquiry on behalf of ‘Clear The Air’ in Hong Kong.   The English Health Protection Agency announced last week that they have approved funding for a Small Area Health Statistics Unit study to investigate whether there is any potential link between municipal waste incinerators and reproductive health – see

This is for a two year study starting in April 2012.  Results will be made publicly available once accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Best wishes   Anna Hansell

(Dr) Anna Hansell  MB BChir MA MRCP MSc PhD FFPH

Clinical Senior Lecturer Assistant Director, Small Area Health Statistics Unit (SAHSU)

MRC-HPA Centre for Environment and Health  Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics

School of Public Health Faculty of Medicine Imperial College London St Mary’s Campus, Norfolk Place  LONDON W2 1PG

Phone: +44 (0)20 7594 3344 Fax: +44 (0)20 7594 0768 Email:

Small Area Health Statistics Unit, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College, London, UK

Home | Macau | CUHK to start 10-year plan on Ka Ho residents’ health

CUHK to start 10-year plan on Ka Ho residents’ health – Macau

18/06/2012 10:05:00

The government has commissioned the Chinese University of Hong Kong for a 10-year study of health conditions of the residents in Ka Ho, where local people complained of illness due to the air pollution from ashes from the nearby incinerator. The Health Bureau said they had agreed with the university on the detailed procedures of the study to monitor the health conditions of residents in the area near Hac Sa. The University was quoted as saying details of the monitoring mechanism and study methodologies would be disclosed to the public next month. Preliminary arrangements require an annual report to be published, but the final conclusion will be ten years away. The Health Bureau said the study will be conducted scientifically, impartially and independently in a professional manner. The health issues were discovered early last year when hundreds of residents, many of them students and teachers in the schools there, complained of lung and respiratory problems after the contractor working the incinerator was found to have broken safety regulations by disposing of the ashes into open areas, and a large amount of them carried to residential districts by wind

Cancer mortality in towns in the vicinity of incinerators and installations for the recovery or disposal of hazardous waste (see study attached)

• Javier García-Péreza

• Pablo Fernández-Navarroa

• Adela Castellóa,

• María Felicitas López-Cimaa

• Rebeca Ramisa

• Elena Boldoa

• Gonzalo López-Abentea

Study Link

• a Cancer and Environmental Epidemiology Unit, National Center for Epidemiology, Carlos III Institute of Health, Avda. Monforte de Lemos, 5, 28029 Madrid, Spain

• b CIBER Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP), Spain

Received 23 July 2012

Accepted 18 October 2012

Available online 13 November 2012


Background     Waste treatment plants release toxic emissions into the environment which affect neighboring towns.

Objectives      To investigate whether there might be excess cancer mortality in towns situated in the vicinity of Spanish-based incinerators and installations for the recovery or disposal of hazardous waste, according to the different categories of industrial activity.

Methods       An ecologic study was designed to examine municipal mortality due to 33 types of cancer, across the period 1997–2006. Population exposure to pollution was estimated on the basis of distance from town of residence to pollution source. Using Besag–York–Mollié (BYM) regression models with Integrated Nested Laplace approximations for Bayesian inference, and Mixed Poisson regression models, we assessed the risk of dying from cancer in a 5-kilometer zone around installations, analyzed the effect of category of industrial activity, and conducted individual analyses within a 50-kilometer radius of each installation.

Results      Excess cancer mortality (BYM model: relative risk, 95% credible interval) was detected in the total population residing in the vicinity of these installations as a whole (1.06, 1.04–1.09), and, principally, in the vicinity of incinerators (1.09, 1.01–1.18) and scrap metal/end-of-life vehicle handling facilities, in particular (1.04, 1.00–1.09). Special mention should be made of the results for tumors of the pleura (1.71, 1.34–2.14), stomach (1.18, 1.10–1.27), liver (1.18, 1.06–1.30), kidney (1.14, 1.04–1.23), ovary (1.14, 1.05–1.23), lung (1.10, 1.05–1.15), leukemia (1.10, 1.03–1.17), colon–rectum (1.08, 1.03–1.13) and bladder (1.08, 1.01–1.16) in the vicinity of all such installations.

Conclusions   Our results support the hypothesis of a statistically significant increase in the risk of dying from cancer in towns near incinerators and installations for the recovery or disposal of hazardous waste.



Download PDF : 1-s2 0-S0160412012002279-mainIncindeaths

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Hong Kong’s Hazy Outlook –


November 26, 2012, 10:52 a.m. ET

Hong Kong’s Hazy Outlook


HONG KONG—Diesel fumes from aging trucks and buses that clog Hong Kong’s narrow streets are putting Asia’s financial hub on course for one of its worst years ever for roadside air pollution.

The city prides itself on its reputation for modernity that attracts professionals from around the world. And though smog regularly obscures Hong Kong’s famed harbor, some pollution has become an accepted fact of life.


European Pressphoto Agency

A pedestrian tries her hand as an air filter while crossing a Hong Kong street in August, as roadside pollution reached record levels.

But air quality has taken a turn for the worse.

Last month marked Hong Kong’s worst October for roadside pollution—air quality measured at street level—since the Environmental Protection Department began keeping the data in 1998. On 25 of 31 days, the air was bad enough that the government urged children, the elderly and the frail to stay indoors. In November, warnings have been issued for 15 of the first 24 days.

“On certain days and weeks we don’t open the windows,” said Andrew Leyden, an American tech entrepreneur who moved to Hong Kong two years ago with his wife and two young sons.

“I check the pollution reports here more often than I check the weather.” When the pollution is bad he has his elder son skip soccer practice and refuses to let him go downtown.

Experts say the source of the bad roadside air is mostly local. Hong Kong is a major transshipment center for the region, and large numbers of trucks enter from mainland China carrying containers to the port. But most of the pollution that leaves Hong Kong pedestrians coughing comes from local trucks and the city’s ubiquitous double-decker buses, whose exhaust fumes accumulate in the dense forest of skyscrapers and narrow streets. The government reckons 80% of roadside pollutants are from aging diesel commercial vehicles.


Bloomberg News

Commuters at a Hong Kong bus stop earlier this year.

Activists have criticized the government for trailing other cities in clamping down on polluters. A recent report by the city’s audit department found Hong Kong has failed to meet its own targets on air quality since their adoption in 1987.

Even among China’s notoriously smoggy major cities, Hong Kong ranks second in nitrogen dioxide—a key indicator of roadside pollution—according to official Chinese data for 2010, the most recent available.

Hong Kong’s environmental department says overall air quality has improved in recent years as rules on power-plant emissions have grown more stringent. And Friday it announced it hopes to reduce certain pollutants between 5% and 25% by 2015 by adopting additional control measures.

Meanwhile the air in the city streets has continued to worsen. When the roadside air pollution index—a measure of pollutants from ozone to carbon monoxide—exceeds 100, the government discourages people from spending time outside. That happened on 172 days last year, compared with just 25 in 2000. So far this year, this number of days with warnings stands at 134.

In contrast to mainland China, which mandates cargo trucks be scrapped after 15 years, Hong Kong does not require old vehicles to be retired, with the exception of public buses. They must be removed from service after 18 years. The Hong Kong government does require that all newly registered vehicles comply with tight emissions standards—but says that more than 90% of the 121,000 diesel commercial vehicles operating in the city don’t meet them.

Beijing and Shanghai have banned high-polluting vehicles from certain areas. Hong Kong doesn’t plan to follow suit until 2015, when it will ban high-emission buses from a few busy street corridors.

Since his inauguration in July, Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has pledged to do more about the city’s air. In September, he appointed well-known green activist Christine Loh as environment undersecretary. And last month the government said it was considering banning old diesel vehicles.

“I think maybe we’re hitting a critical tipping point here,” said Joanne Ooi, who helped found the Clean Air Network, a local nongovernmental organization.

The government has been working with public bus companies to retrofit older buses to reduce emissions. It has also introduced subsidies to encourage truck owners to upgrade to cleaner vehicles, and has partnered with authorities across the Pearl River Delta to try to reduce pollution.

Surveys suggest air pollution is hurting Hong Kong’s competitiveness. One in four Hong Kong residents has considered emigrating as a result of poor air quality, according to a 2010 Civic Exchange survey.

Still, while expatriates complain about the pollution levels, cases such as that of Edo de Waart—who while music director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic sent his wife and children back to Wisconsin to breathe cleaner air—are rare. The city’s attractiveness as a gateway to China remains a powerful lure.

The University of Hong Kong estimates an average of 3,200 avoidable deaths were caused by air pollution annually in the past five years. Exposure to heavy air pollution, even for a short term, raises the risks of strokes, heart failure and arrhythmias, according to experts.

“It’s really bad,” says Ko Kam Sing, 44, a Hong Kong local who works as a chauffeur and says his nose and throat often feel dry and irritated because of the air pollution. “But there’s nothing ordinary people can do about it. It’s very hard to change.”

Copyright 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

SITA Wins Contracts for 3 Waste Transfer Stations in Hong Kong

SITA Wins Contracts for 3 Waste Transfer Stations in Hong Kong

26 November 2012

SITA Waste Services has won two contracts in Hong Kong for the management and redevelopment of three waste transfer stations.

The company said the 10 year contract is worth 220 million euros and covers the West Kowloon Transfer Station (WKTS) and the two Hong Kong Island Transfer Stations (HKTS).

The WKTS is located on the West Kowloon reclamation area, and is the largest transfer station in terms of waste handling capacity in Hong Kong. It serves the Kowloon, Kwai Tsing and Tsuen Wan areas.

According to SITA around 2240 tonnes of municipal solid waste is delivered to the plant every day, and transported by marine transfer to the West New Territories storage facility for final treatment and disposal.

The company added that an additional 470 tonnes of grease trap waste from restaurants and food processing establishments are received on a daily basis for specific treatment at WKTS, through which the oil and grease are recovered and sold as a raw material for the production of biodiesel.

The other two transfer stations, located on the east and west sides of Hong Kong Island, together handle about 1300 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day, which the company said is similarly processed and transferred to its final disposal and treatment facility.

Asian presence

According to the SITA – a part of SUEZ Environnement (Paris: SEV, Brussels: SEVB) – the contracts represent a strengthening of its position both in Hong Kong, and in the wider Asia Pacific region.

“This new, stronger position, will be a significant advantage as we support the waste management strategies of Asia’s largest cities and help them to go further in treatment and recovery,” explained Jean-Louis Chaussade, chief executive officer of SUEZ Environnement.

The company said that it has had a presence in the region for over 20 years and currently operates two state-of-the-art strategic landfill sites managing more than 7000 tonnes per day.

SITA added that it also operates 11 transfer stations and seven restored landfills and also provides collection, composting and recycling services to businesses and to its main client the Hong Kong Environmental Department.

Letters to the Editor, November 24, 2012

Published on South China Morning Post (

Home > Letters to the Editor, November 24, 2012

Letters to the Editor, November 24, 2012

Submitted by admin on Nov 24th 2012, 12:00am


Environment officials can do better job

The Environmental Protection Department’s dogged intention to locate a massive off-shore waste incinerator on Shek Kwu Chau marked a low point in governance.

The decision was made for the wrong reasons, when there were more cost-effective and environmentally viable alternatives available.

It is evident the government has been weak-kneed when facing opposition from vested interests, but has been willing to frustrate public opinion on this matter to such a degree that the director of environmental protection lost credibility with the community.

As a result, a Cheung Chau resident brought a judicial review against this ill-advised HK$23 billion project. He is to be commended.

Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor claims that the first four months of government under Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying have been productive, but also remarks that governance has become difficult (“Lam claims productive first four months” November 15).

That is not surprising when officials continually make decisions that are obviously against the wishes of the majority of citizens, and public consultations are a sham.

It is most doubtful that the new team at the Environmental Protection Department would have supported the Shek Kwu Chau decision.

Common sense should prevail and that decision should be rescinded by the new administration.

The traffic congestion caused by the disparity in tunnel tolls is another area where our administration needs to apply common sense to a problem where government bureaucrats have been totally impotent for far too many years.

As a result, roadside pollution has soared and the government is failing the population miserably (“Watchdog slams city’s battle on pollution”, November 15).

Charlie Chan, Mid-Levels

Take old diesel vehicles off our roads now

My thanks to Tom Holland (“The sheer wilful stupidity of official inaction on pollution”, November 16) and the Audit Commission report (“Watchdog slams city’s battle on pollution”, November 15) for highlighting what we all know, the complete failure of this government’s so-called clean air policy.

To clean up this mess, it is obligatory that we tackle roadside pollution without delay and with a vengeance.

Years of government inaction have seen our air quality deteriorate to dangerous levels.

As a father of four children, I am seriously concerned for their well-being. No wonder class-action lawsuits can’t get off the ground here.

Why is it that this administration cannot tackle roadside air pollution and immediately take 50,000 pre-2001 diesel vehicles off the roads?

Is it to do with the transport lobby and other vested interest groups?

Christine Loh Kung-wai (environment undersecretary), where are you?

Tony Carey, Kwun Tong

Tai Po beach plan will ravage habitat

A coalition of 30 groups opposing the government’s plan to build an artificial beach in Lung Mei wants to launch a judicial review against the project.

This project could harm a vulnerable marine ecosystem and I am concerned by the government’s decision to go ahead with its proposal.

It seems to be motivated by profit rather than preserving the delicate ecological balance in this coastal area of Tai Po. Marine creatures there and their habitat would be wiped out.

I urge officials to reconsider their decision, realise they will do more harm than good, and withdraw plans for the construction of this artificial beach.

Law Wan-ning, Tsuen Wan

Source URL (retrieved on Nov 24th 2012, 8:06am):

Hong Kong, Guangdong lower pollution reduction targets for 2020

Submitted by admin on Nov 24th 2012, 12:00am

News›Hong Kong


Stuart Lau, Li Jing in Guangzhou and Emily Tsang

Under eight-year plan, HK and Guangdong set separate reduction rates on emissions, which is a departure from ambitious goals set previously

Hong Kong and Guangdong have decided on reduction targets for air pollutants up to 2020 that are much less ambitious than goals set in the previous phase.

Under the new eight-year plan starting this year, authorities from each side will also work towards separate mid- and long-term reduction rates of emission.

That decision marked a departure from the 2002-2010 phase, in which both places shared common emission targets for four pollutants.


In that phase, Guangdong failed by 2010 to achieve a promised cut in volatile organic compounds and marginally attained the target for nitrogen oxides.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, had met all four targets, which also include sulphur dioxide and respirable suspended particulates.

“Obviously, there’s not enough momentum for Guangdong officials to take emissions of volatile organic compounds very seriously,” a mainland analyst said.

Representatives from the Environment Bureau met their provincial counterparts in Guangzhou yesterday to thrash out 2012-2020 targets in the hope of alleviating regional air pollution. It is understood that Guangdong spent the past two years compiling data from its thousands of factories and vehicles, among other polluting sources.

Zhang Ruifeng, an official of the Guangdong provincial environmental protection bureau, said: “Without national standards and regulations on volatile organic compounds, it is extremely difficult to rein in polluting businesses.”

Zhong Liuju, an air pollution prevention expert linked to the provincial government, said pollution worsened at an “unexpected” pace as 2010 economic output turned out to be 1.26 times the original estimates.

Both regions laid down new specific reduction targets on emissions yesterday that would apply only until 2015, while setting ranges for 2015 to 2020.

In the three years ahead, Hong Kong will have a tighter sulphur dioxide target than Guangdong, but will ease up on scrutiny of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. Both places endorse the same target for respirable suspended particulates, or particles of 10 microns or less.

The latest targets are less aggressive than in the previous endeavour. For example, in the last phase, the two places wanted to cut respirable suspended particulates and volatile organic compounds by 55 per cent on 1997 levels; this time, Hong Kong is aiming at 10 and 5 per cent less than the 2010 levels, while Guangdong seeks 10 per cent for both pollutants. Officials claimed room for further improvement was limited.

By 2020, Hong Kong hopes to see emission drops in all four pollutants of 15 to 75 per cent, and Guangdong 15 and 40 per cent.

Meeting the lower range for Hong Kong would be in line with proposed air-quality objectives to be introduced in 2014, a bureau official said.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said legislation – though effective – would have to take into account business concerns. The city would consider phasing out old diesel vehicles and tighten car emissions standards, he said.

Melonie Chau Yuet-cheung, of green group Friends of the Earth, said the 2020 target ranges were too broad. “It is questionable whether officials are determined to achieve [the ambitious upper ends of the ranges].”


Air Pollution

Hong Kong


Source URL (retrieved on Nov 24th 2012, 6:03am):


Govt promises new clean air blueprint


The government has promised to come up with a clear blueprint for tackling Hong Kong’s air pollution before the end of the year.

This comes after the Director of Audit criticised the government for its record to date, saying Hong Kong had been unable to achieve air quality objectives set a quarter of a century ago, and that the new objectives would not adequately protect public health.

The Secretary for the Environment, Wong Kam-sing, told lawmakers that the government hopes to set out a roadmap and timetable for achieving Hong Kong’s new air quality objectives as soon as possible.

He said there would be clearer targets.

Children around globe worry about education, environment: poll

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Education, food and the environment are top concerns for children around the globe, and particularly for youngsters growing up in developing countries, according to an international poll released on Tuesday.

Half of children, aged 10 to 12, in emerging nations who were questioned in the Small Voices, Big Dreams survey cited education, followed by food, clothing and shelter as the areas they would focus on as leader of their nation to improve children’s lives.

“We’re always surprised and inspired to see how much emphasis children in developing countries put on education,” said Steven Stirling, executive vice president of ChildFund International, a children’s advocacy non-profit formerly known as the Christian Children’s Fund.

“It shows the depth of maturity of children, who clearly understand the connection between education and changing their worlds for the better,” he added in an interview.

Providing food, clothing and shelter was the top response given by children from developed nations, and the environment and was a concern for everyone.

The findings are based on online interviews with 6,204 children from 47 nations in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe. The children were also asked about their aspirations, experiences with disasters and environmental concerns and priorities.

Although one third or more of children in developing countries had experienced natural disasters such as floods, drought or fires, pollution was a bigger worry for them.

Children in poorer nations worried about global warming but youngsters in rich countries did not list it as a concern.

Sterling suggested that global warming might be less of a worry in richer nations because children in developing countries are experiencing more natural disasters that have a greater, negative impact.

“Their ideas for environmental solutions were encouraging: across the world, nearly half of children said they’d either plant more trees, build additional green spaces or decrease littering to help improve the planet,” he said.

“Complex social problems affecting children are better addressed if children are part of the solution,” he added.

Children from developing nations also differed sharply with those from developed nations when it came to career aspirations.

More than half of children in developing countries said they wanted to be a teacher or healthcare professional, while those in developed countries, whom Stirling noted often had the luxury of choosing a career, wanted to be a professional athlete.

But when asked, “What are you most afraid of?” the worldwide response was the same — animals.

The full results of the survey can be found at

(Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Patricia Reaney)

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Delhi’s blanket ban on plastic bags

News aggregated by

In Delhi, a blanket ban on plastic bags starts this week. The latest effort by Delhi would mark the first time a city in India is enforcing a blanket ban on plastic bags within its territory. New York Times . 19 November 2012.


NEW DELHI–Babu Dayal sells fruit in front of the 3Cs Cineplex in Lajpat Nagar, New Delhi. When a customer buys a kilogram of bananas or half a kilo of apples from him, he hands them over in a plastic bag. But starting Nov. 23, Mr. Dayal will have to hope his customers have their own bags, as the Delhi government will begin enforcing a ban on the manufacture, import, sale, storage and use of plastic bags, sheets, films or tubs.

The last time the city government tried to ban stores from giving carry-out plastic bags was in 2009, a move that proved woefully ineffective, and was roundly criticized by the industry (maybe it didn’t help that the city also held a convention to celebrate the use of plastic at the same time.)

Despite that setback, the case for reducing Delhi’s reliance on plastic bags is undeniable: the capital produces 250,000 tons of plastic waste every year, and a huge chunk of it comes from Delhi’s 14 million households, which use about five carry-out plastic bags a day, according to the city government.

The latest effort by Delhi would mark the first time a city in India is enforcing a blanket ban on plastic bags within its territory. The ban in 2009 allowed the use of biodegradable plastic of 40 microns or thicker, under the theory that heavy-duty plastic bags are used again and again, not disposed of. But the newest ban extends to all varieties of plastic bags, even those for garbage. (City government officials say they will think about how to deal with waste disposal later.) The only exception is for the bags used for biomedical waste.

The ban is being enforced under the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986, which carries a maximum penalty of 100,000 rupees, and five years of imprisonment.

However, Sandeep Mishra, additional secretary of the environment for the city government, said the city plans to only fine the users and the shops that distribute plastic bags nominally, though he did not give exact details. “It takes time for it to sink in,” he said.

Enforcement will involve a government-wide effort, he said. “We will rope in the police department, food and sales division and labor inspectors to enforce the ban,” he said.

Mr. Mishra said that the stricter plastic ban was necessary, in part because of the failure of the last partial ban. “It was almost impossible to enforce the ban last time around as everyone claimed they were using the bags that were allowed,” he said.

This time the ban extends to the manufacturing of plastic bags and tubs in Delhi as well. Anti-plastic activists say this won’t have an impact on commerce. “If products are produced, they will find a way to be sold,” said Prashant Rajenkar, senior program coordinator at the nonprofit Toxics Link.

Under the 2009 ban, thin plastic bags vanished from shopping malls, big retail outlets and government-run retail outlets, but were still available at smaller stores and used for garbage disposal.

The new ban is giving sleepless nights to plastic bag manufacturers in Delhi, who have petitioned the Delhi High Court to block it. The High Court has issued notices to the central government, the Delhi city government, the three municipal corporations of Delhi and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, asking them to respond to a petition by the All India Plastic Industries Association by Nov. 23, the same day that the ban goes into effect.

However, the government is confident that the courts would not get in the way of the city’s efforts to reduce plastic bag use. “Whenever we fight for an environmental cause, the courts have been in our favor,” said Mr. Mishra.

Government officials are also planning to start an awareness campaign about the separation and recycling of waste, using social networking sites, and will hand out a limited number of jute and cloth shopping bags to select Resident Welfare Associations.

Despite all the efforts, Mr. Rajenkar of Toxics Link said the ban may not work as well as the environmental advocates hope. “Plastic bags are very convenient, and unless there is an equally attractive alternative, people might not give it up completely,” he said.

Mr. Dayal, the fruit seller, agreed. Most of his customers buy his products on their way back home, he said, and they don’t remember to carry cloth bags with them. If it is deemed illegal for him to hand out plastic bags, he said, then he might offer a small bribe to the local policeman and continue to use the plastic bags.

Can C.Y. Leung and Carrie Lam shake officials into action on air pollution?


Submitted by admin on Nov 19th 2012, 12:00am

Comment›Insight & Opinion

Mayling Chan

Mayling Chan says it will take more than just political will at the top to improve Hong Kong’s air quality; everyone in society, including intransigent civil servants and lawmakers, needs to be on board

The Environmental Protection Department last month announced that the city had achieved its overall clean-air targets under a joint scheme with Guangdong province, citing the results of an air pollution inventory. The Audit Commission report released last week, however, painted a gloomier picture than expected, saying that the existing air-quality objectives had never been fully achieved since they were introduced in 1987.

Sadly, since 2006, the department has never met its target for the Air Pollution Index of not exceeding the “very high” level of 100 on any day in a year. And the number of days in a year with excessive pollution has risen from 74 in 2007 to 175 last year.

Taking a more holistic perspective, the report put both the Transport and Housing Bureau and the Environmental Protection Department on the spot for not imposing stricter fuel standards on ocean-going and local vessels.

Although the report came as a surprise to many, it would not have been a shock for Wong Kam-sing, the Environment Secretary, who just four months into his term told some green groups frankly that the take-up rate had been low – a mere 10 per cent – for the scheme to replace commercial diesel vehicles. Hence, it was not expected to be effective.

There are still some 50,000 highly polluting vehicles on our roads, including 17,000 diesel vehicles that are more than 17 years old. This is why Wong sounded out the option of phasing out commercial diesel vehicles when they are 15 years old, to tackle our health-threatening roadside pollution. As environment undersecretary Christine Loh Kung-wai said, such an achievable solution was “low-hanging fruit” that would provide an immediate improvement.

We have sufficient reason to believe that both Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Chief Secretary Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor have the political will to protect public health.

Leung mentioned the health impacts of harmful emissions from vehicles and ships in his speech to the Legislative Council in October, and in his inaugural speech on July 1 he emphasised that his team needed to “address issues from a high-level perspective and with inter-departmental and cross-sector collaboration”, indicating that red tape and a silo mentality work against the political will to improve our living conditions.

Even Lam, in her consultation session with green groups this month, assured attendees that she was on top of a co- ordinating mission to tackle the health effects of roadside pollution.

So, what is missing if we have the high-level political will? Can red tape be such a formidable obstacle?

In the last administration, a proposal was tabled for low-emission zones in Central, Mong Kok and Causeway Bay, with the idea being that high-emission buses and vehicles could be barred from entering these areas. However, this plan required collaboration with the Transport Department, so it is yet to be realised.

But, what if past negative examples could be overcome? What if, under Lam’s leadership, the tendency of bureaucracies to prohibit co-operation between departments could be gradually substituted for a reformed culture with a sense of collective mission and accountability within the administration? The whole of society would benefit through a reduced risk of cardio-pulmonary illness associated with air pollution and the lower financial burden on the taxpayer-funded health care system.

Drivers and passengers surely also want their health protected. In July, we measured the fine particles inside Hong Kong buses in various districts and found that the average hourly concentration reached 53.11 micrograms per cubic metre. That is more than twice the 25 micrograms per cubic metre recommended by the World Health Organisation.

Another question has to be: which stakeholders are willing to sacrifice public and individual health for something else? Our lawmakers, for example? Will they sacrifice public health for votes from some of their specific constituencies?

Or will they share a collective vision for our city? We do not know yet; we must put it to the test. We cannot succeed in protecting our own health if we lack the political will to do so.

Now that the government has a correct diagnosis and an effective prescription for improving Hong Kong’s air quality, will they approve the appropriate legislation and necessary finances?

Let’s hope the whole of society is committed to a significant change and that when the Audit Commission does another body-check in two years’ time, it will find that our world-class city can match that reputation with world-quality air.

Mayling Chan is CEO of Friends of the Earth (HK)


Air Pollution



Leung Chun-Ying

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-Ngor

Wong Kam-sing

Source URL (retrieved on Nov 19th 2012, 3:33am):