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No quick fixes for the problem of air quality

Cheung Chi-fai – SCMP

The environment minister has admitted that roadside air pollution has not significantly improved over the years but says addressing it in isolation without tackling other sources will never deliver satisfactory air quality.

Edward Yau Tang-wah said air pollution had to be tackled on all fronts, and he called for community support when a review of air quality objectives was released for public consultation.

Mr Yau was responding to a report in the South China Morning Post yesterday which showed that the hours of worst roadside pollution had increased sixfold in five years while the quality of the air at higher levels had been steadily improving.

In an interview with the Post, the minister said a “multi-pronged approach” addressing both energy and transport at both regional and local levels was needed to deal with multiple sources of pollution.

“It is neither realistic to blame pollution from the mainland nor sufficient to work on local roadside pollution alone, as we are facing different sources of pollutants,” he said.

“It is never our stance that we can do nothing because of pollution from across the border. But we also don’t want a public perception that there is nothing more the mainland can do either,” he said.

The levels of the major background pollutants have fallen by between seven and 20 per cent since 2004. But Mr Yau admitted there had been little or no changes in overall roadside pollution levels, except for a 14 per cent reduction in suspended particles.

Mr Yau challenged the use of air pollution index figures to monitor air quality trends, which he said could be distorted by weather fluctuations. He said it was equally important to address power plant emissions.

Mr Yau said that in the upcoming review, the public would be confronted with questions over what carrots or sticks should be used in tackling pollution and to what extent people were prepared to pay for the changes.

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