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Leaders Doing Nothing To Clean Up Filthy Air

Updated on Mar 26, 2008 – SCMP (Letters to Editor)

Wolfgang Ehmann makes an excellent point – each individual must contribute to a clean environment (“Dispelling some myths about incinerators”, March 20). But I disagree with his conclusion, that sustainability is not only having the right leader wisely choose the right solution.

To paraphrase [New York Times columnist] Thomas L. Friedman: the greenest thing you can do is choose the right leaders, because they write the rules.

He said: “Whatever any of us does individually matters … But when leaders change the rules, you get scale change across the whole marketplace.”

I have lived in Hong Kong for three years and have yet to hear Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s administration make one meaningful statement – much less take meaningful action – about the city’s pollution.

It seems that neither the Hong Kong authorities nor their Beijing masters are in control. The people who really run this city – the power companies and the moguls with myriad factories in Guangdong – are not accountable to anyone. With each breath of vile air, everyone living near the Pearl River Delta pays the price. On bad days, even The Peak sees particulate levels more than double the EU’s most hazardous limits. Would Mr Ehmann really trust Mr Tsang’s administration to install an incinerator “with the highest health and safety standards”? Please, the authorities don’t even require that bus companies meet emission standards.

The trash isn’t piling up in the streets, but Hong Kong is far dirtier than Naples.

Every mother in this city knows children with serious breathing problems: babies on nebulisers before they can walk, three-year-olds on steroids for asthma.

So, to Hong Kong’s rulers, both the de facto ones and those who really run the show – is this your legacy, turning Hong Kong into an ash heap that poisons its children?

A. K. Sherman, The Peak

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