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Hong Kong Air Pollution Fight

Hong Kong public calls for air pollution fight

Mon Dec 17, 2007 7:57am EST Reuters

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Most Hong Kong people were willing to pay for a tougher crackdown on chronic air pollution through road pricing and other measures, a government-backed report said on Monday.

The head of the government advisory body that collaborated on the report with Hong Kong University also said the city should establish a “superfund” for cleaning up the environment.

Released during Hong Kong’s traditionally smoggy winter months, the report is the most ambitious so far to gauge public attitudes about pollution, which frequently obscures the famous harbor.

“The public really wants something to be done even if certain costs are added to them…so it’s really a good political capital that they (the government) have to drive on more initiatives,” said environmentalist Alexis Lau.

Edgar Cheng, the Chairman of the Council for Sustainable Development, called for the government to establish the fund.

Cheng didn’t specify the size of the fund, but said the government could afford it, with an expected surplus of HK$50 billion dollar ($6.4 billion) this fiscal year.

“We figured out that if we want to clear up everything, it will cost HK$20-30 billion,” Cheng said.

Of the 81,000 people polled in the survey, 77 percent said they would be bear increases in transport costs in return for better air, through the use of cleaner vehicles and fuels.

Forty-two percent said they backed electronic road pricing, which would charge vehicle usage on roads during peak periods — a contentious measure opposed by the motor trade for decades.

A consensus was also found for greater public transport usage on bad air days and certain mandatory measures like the use of green lightbulbs and turning off air-conditioners in empty rooms.

Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang said he would study the report.

“Improving air quality and the overall environmental quality is a long term battle, which must have the participation of everyone in society in order to realize results,” he said.

Coal-fired power stations are blamed as the city’s worst polluters, but increasing emissions also blow across the border from tens of thousands of factories in southern China.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Grant McCool)

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