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November 14th, 2012:

Implementation of air-quality improvement measures

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Monitoring and reporting of air quality

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It’s official: Hong Kong has poor air quality

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



Howard Winn

The government’s Audit Commission published two reports yesterday which are a damning indictment of the previous government’s record on monitoring air quality and its lamentable efforts at improving it. The two reports, Implementation of Air-Quality Improvements Measures, and Monitoring and Reporting of Air Quality show a remarkable level of failure in meeting its obligations under the air pollution control ordinance, and in taking very obvious steps such as getting old polluting diesel-engined vehicles off the road.

This is something that think tanks and environmentalists have been advising for years and yet the EPD has barely done anything.

The EPD has no shortage of information as to the sources of air pollution, but it has just been highly ineffective in enacting improvements. Even with the power stations, the one area where gains were made, the Audit Commission notes: “Nox [nitrogen oxides] emission allowances set for local power plants to be effective from 2015 and 2017, would significantly exceed those proposed by the EPD consultant.” Elsewhere the report notes “the EPD has never achieved its performance target on API (not exceeding 100 on any day in a year) since setting the targets in 2006-07”.

Professor Anthony Hedley, who set up his eponymous environmental index, has called the government’s air pollution index, “a complete piece of fiction”. We suppose the Audit Commission should be congratulated for saying what many people have known for quite a long time.

There are new leaders at the EPD and a lot of people have high hopes they will enact measures to improve the environment. There are also many sceptics who believe it is just too hard to effect the necessary changes in Hong Kong. Let’s hope they’re wrong. These reports give it considerable ammunition to attack the problems.

The administration has agreed with both reports and says unequivocally that “the protection of health is the key guiding principle in the formulation of air-quality improvement measures,” and achieving the World health Organisation guidelines on air quality is a long-term goal.

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Air Pollution in Hong Kong

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Auditor slams Hong Kong’s efforts to tackle pollution

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

News›Hong Kong

Cheung Chi-fai

Proposed standards not tough enough to protect public health, says auditor

Hong Kong’s proposed air quality standards are not tough enough to protect public health, while existing measures to curb harmful emissions are ineffective, inadequate or stalled by red tape, the Audit Commission says.

In its third report since 1997 on Hong Kong’s efforts to clean up the air, the government auditor also notes that far from meeting the 24-year-old air quality objectives, pollution has gotten worse.

Echoing green groups’ criticism, it says the objectives proposed for 2014, “do not provide adequate protection of public health”.

The objectives comprise a mixture of interim targets recommended by the World Health Organisation. But the auditor calls for a clear road map and timetable to boost health protection.

The report, following the second one in 2005, takes stock of efforts during the rule of previous chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

It says that while the city aspires to be world class, its air quality has a long way to catch up as the annual concentrations of nitrogen dioxide are up to 279 per cent higher than Sydney, New York and London, which have already met the WHO guidelines on that pollutant.

While failing to meet the objectives set in 1987, the city every year since 2006 also missed the Environmental Protection Department’s target of no days with the air pollution index over the “very high” level of 100. Instead, the days with excessive pollution has risen year after year, from 74 in 2007 to 175 last year.

The auditor also put roadside air quality under the spotlight, pointing out that pollution levels were up to 70 per cent higher than the 24-year-old targets.

On the monitoring network, its suggests building stations in Tseung Kwan O and Tuen Mun to serve the growing population.

The report questions the effectiveness of the commercial diesel vehicle replacement schemes introduced by the department in 2000. After an outlay of at least HK$1.8 billion, it says, there are still more than 50,000 highly polluting vehicles on the roads, including 17,000 diesel vehicles more than 17 years old.

It also casts doubt on a scheme to use taxpayers’ money to help equip polluting buses close to the end of their lives with devices to remove nitrogen oxides, while raising concern about a meagre 1.1 per cent reduction in bus trips on busy corridors despite a rationalisationprogramme. The Transport and Housing Bureau and Environmental Protection Department both come under fire for not imposing stricter fuel standards on ocean-going and local vessels.

Welcoming the report, green groups urged swift action but also highlighted the need for co-ordination to implement measures.

Friends of the Earth senior environmental affairs manager Melonie Chau Yuet-cheung said the chief secretary should take up the role of co-ordination.

“The EPD is not in a position to push measures involving other bureaus or departments and Carrie Lam should step in to make interdepartmental co-operation happen,” she said.

Responding to the report, the Environmental Protection Department said there had been real improvements in the concentrations of pollutants over the years. It pledged to review the air quality objectives every five years, with the ultimate aim of adopting the WHO guidelines.

It would also reconsider introducing “disincentive schemes” to speed the early retirement to of polluting vehicles. But it noted that a 2009 proposal to increase licence fees for old vehicles was not supported by lawmakers.


More on this:

Government must do more to improve air quality [1]

Hong Kong fails to meet air quality targets [2]

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Hong Kong fails on pollution targets

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