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Demand To Adopt WHO Guidelines

Cheung Chi-fai – SCMP – Updated on Oct 09, 2008

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen should endorse the World Health Organisation’s air-quality guidelines in his policy address next week to protect the public from the adverse health effects of air pollution, a green group said yesterday.

Friends of the Earth also called on the government to push ahead with measures to curb roadside air pollution, such as forcing all pre-Euro and Euro I diesel commercial vehicles, including franchised buses, off the roads before 2010.

The calls came after the South China Morning Post revealed the government had yet to make any commitment to update the city’s outdated air-quality objectives, a year after beginning a review of the standards.

Officials involved in the review are considering various measures – mainly transport and energy related – to improve air quality.

“It is time for Mr Tsang to do something concrete on air quality by adopting the WHO’s guidelines right away,” said Friends of the Earth director Edwin Lau Che-feng.

“The health impact of air pollution, particularly on the roadside, can no longer be neglected.

“How many human lives would be sacrificed and economic losses incurred by not having those polluting diesel vehicles taken off the roads now?”

The WHO’s guidelines, which were promulgated in 2005 but have yet to be adopted by a single country, set daily standards for suspended particulates at least three times more stringent than Hong Kong’s, yet they are said to be the minimum required to protect public health.

Friends of the Earth said Hong Kong should adopt the WHO’s guidelines and raise licence fees for polluting vehicles next year.

It also proposes an increase in the number of mandatory inspections of polluting vehicles, the setting of long-term energy-saving targets, and an increase in the percentage of electricity produced by gas-fired power stations to 50 per cent by 2010.

A 2003 study commissioned by the Environmental Protection Department showed respirable suspended particulates emitted by old diesel vehicles had been responsible for 8,000 cases of cancer.

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