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New dimension in cross-border pollution fight

Jasmine Siu

Friday, July 06, 2012

The Chinese University of Hong Kong has launched the first cross-border air and water quality monitoring system – though it admits it is far from perfect due to the lack of data from the mainland.

It expects that with more funding it will be able to place sensors on main roads in the Pearl River Delta to provide early warning for government officers and the public.

The system currently depends on the air pollution index released by the Environmental Protection Department and data collected from 3,000 chimneys.

It then analyzes specific areas where pollution is most severe and its direction of dispersal.

The project – run by the university’s Institute of Space and Earth Information Science – combines the technology of satellite imagery and virtual geographic environments to provide near-real time 3D data.

“In terms of technology, this is a major breakthrough,” Hu Mingyuan, a postdoctoral fellow at the institute, said.

Researchers hope the institute can gain access to mainland data in a few years and release a more accurate analyses on an hourly basis.

Approximately HK$2 million has been spent on the two-year-old project and the institute is hoping to obtain an extra HK$2 million government grant.

According to the Clean Air Network, a local nongovernment organization, Hong Kong’s air pollution mortality rate is eighth-highest in the world, far worse than the mainland, India and Vietnam.

While the high number of motor vehicles contributes to the city’s poor air quality, the situation is made worse when monsoon winds bring pollutants from the delta region, which is known for its high level of industrial development.

Meanwhile, the system for monitoring water quality is now entering an operational phase and will be completed by 2014. More data from the mainland is also needed.

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