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October, 2008:

One Billion City Dwellers Forecast

Staff Reporter – SCMP | Updated on Oct 20, 2008

The mainland’s urban population could reach almost 1 billion in the coming years, the president of the International Institute for Urban Development said in Beijing yesterday.

Lian Yuming told a forum that not only would China witness rapid growth of its urban population, but the widening wealth gap would also likely intensify in the coming decades.

He predicted that more rural people would move into cities and the urban population would increase to 915 million by 2025.

China would also have many more mega-cities – cities with more than 10 million residents – including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Tianjin , Wuhan , Chongqing and Chengdu.

These cities, Professor Lian said, would face serious problems such as traffic congestion, resource shortages and pollution.

The influence of city clusters – the three key ones being the Yangtze River Delta, the Pearl River Delta and the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area – would rise further, and they could play a commanding role in the national economy and development.

A transient population would continue to be the driving force behind the rapid growth of mainland cities, Professor Lian said. He estimated that the urban population would increase by 350 million by 2025 with the transient population – mainly migrant workers and jobseekers from the countryside – accounting for 240 million.

Professor Lian, who also teaches at the Communist Party School, said the middle class would continue to be the dominant force in cities, and their emergence would be a key factor behind the rise of civic society and democracy.

In terms of infrastructure, Professor Lian said air transport would likely become the key mode of transport and the number of airports would reach 244 by 2020.

But he warned that government needed to pay attention to the country’s widening wealth gap.

Cool On Warming

Cool on warming – The financial crisis could derail progress on the growing threat of climate change

Michael Richardson – SCMP – Updated on Oct 17, 2008

Are we entering the worst of all worlds, one in which financial turmoil and recession make it increasingly difficult for governments and the private sector to tackle a less immediate but more serious long-term threat to human welfare and stability in Asia: disastrous climate change?

Until recently, many advanced economies put controlling greenhouse gas emissions at the top of their reform agendas, after a series of reports from scientists advising the United Nations warned that growing levels of solar heat held in the atmosphere by a blanket of carbon dioxide and other man-made pollutants is intensifying extreme weather, melting glaciers, raising sea levels and aggravating drought and water shortages.

Today, however, the credit crisis and economic slowdown have forced a change of priorities. Recession is expected to reduce the rapid rise in global warming emissions. But it is likely to be only a temporary respite. The chief concern now is to revive the very economic growth that is contributing to climate change. Much of the growth is energy- and carbon-intensive. It is based on fossil fuels and converting forests to farmland.

The preoccupation with restoring loans for business investment, while spurring growth and consumption to create jobs, will make it even more difficult for the international community to reach a new agreement on curbing climate change by the end of next year, when a high-level meeting in Copenhagen is supposed to finalise a global warming deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. The longer and deeper the recession, the more difficult it will be to reach a deal on effective emission control. In the worst case, the talks might collapse, as happened last July with the global trade negotiations.

Yu Qingtai, China’s climate change envoy, said last week he was “fairly pessimistic” about prospects for the climate negotiations, adding that progress achieved so far was extremely limited. Yvo de Boer, the UN climate chief, admitted he was also worried about the outlook as governments focused on keeping their banks and economies afloat.

“There’s a risk that less public money will be available in the north for co-operation with the south on technology and capacity building,” he said. “Taken together, there’s a risk that short-term concerns will prevail.”

This is a make-or-break issue for China, according to Mr Yu. The point was reinforced last week in Beijing at a meeting of East Asia Summit countries on climate change. Wan Gang , the minister of science and technology, told officials from the 16 summit nations and UN agencies that developed economies should speed up the transfer of clean energy technology to developing nations and lower the cost.

Kyoto binds 37 industrialised countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 5 per cent below their 1990 levels by 2012. It sets no targets for developing countries. But now that China, India and other rapidly developing economies have emerged as major contributors to global emissions, they are under pressure to join a post-Kyoto accord and cap their pollution.

Part of the bargaining price for doing so will be a transfer of technology and resources from industrialised countries to cushion the cost of economic development based on cleaner energy. Yet the current economic and financial crisis is likely to result in less aid to developing nations to curb their soaring emissions.

Recent sharp falls in the price of oil, coal and gas tend to reduce the incentive to improve energy efficiency. But consultants McKinsey & Co think that the best hope of slowing climate change in the current crisis is to promote energy conservation schemes that save money. They reckon that emissions-cutting measures such as better building insulation, lower fuel consumption and more efficient lighting and air conditioning, pay for themselves over time via lower energy bills.

However, McKinsey researchers found that the most costly projects, such as capturing carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants and storing it underground, refining bio-diesel, and some renewable energies that are far more expensive than fossil fuels, are likely to be casualties of prolonged recession. So, too, is expanding nuclear power, with its high capital costs, even though it emits no carbon dioxide.

Michael Richardson is an energy and security specialist at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

Building Smart

Building smart – Why raze when you can retrofit, architects tell Charmaine Carvalho

SCMP – Updated on Oct 16, 2008

If a building is more than 40 years old, it’s time to demolish the structure and put up something taller and bigger, right? Hong Kong’s predilection for redevelopment stems more from a concern with increasing floor area than safety considerations – a factor in some 1960s buildings where concrete was mixed with sea water.

However, that drive is being dampened down as some investors and developers find it more cost-effective and environmentally responsible to renovate and refit buildings that may be old but which are still structurally sound.

Among the most successful makeovers is Moon Lok Dai Ha, a once rundown Housing Society estate in Tsuen Wan, which won a Green Building Award this year in the existing buildings category following an extensive upgrade.

Explaining their 2003 decision to renovate, the society’s general manager of project management, Chum Hon-sun, says: “If we tore it down, we would also have to look into where to move the residents.

“Economically, we’d have to put in more resources in order to redevelop. Socially, we wanted residents to be able maintain their strong community ties and daily routine as the majority have been living here for many years.”

Then there were the environmental considerations. Renovation was expected not only to add at least 20 years to the life of Moon Lok Dai Ha, it also generated just 4,000 tonnes of construction waste compared to 10 times that amount if the estate were to have been demolished and rebuilt.

Amid worldwide concern over climate change, the need to improve energy efficiency and to reduce carbon footprints, architect Chris Law Kin-chung says it’s wrong to make redevelopment a routine choice.

“While sometimes you need to demolish and rebuild in the public interest – if, for example, an MTR station or a hospital is needed – assuming demolition-and-rebuild as the norm is plainly wrong,” says Law, director of architectural firm the Oval Partnership.

The construction of any building requires the consumption of considerable energy and resources – from extracting stone and iron ore and turning them into concrete and steel, to transporting the material and eventual construction – and so therefore reducing sound structures to rubble is extremely wasteful.

Besides, “demolishing a building is an extremely polluting process”, Law says. “There’s the air and noise pollution, and much of the material in concrete structures cannot be recycled and simply goes into landfills.”

Even if scrap steel is recycled, it has to be transported elsewhere and melted down.

Rather than spend HK$530 million redeveloping the site, the Housing Society opted for a HK$130 million upgrade that has turned Moon Lok Dai Ha into an attractive residential complex with elderly friendly features such as ramps and non-slip tiles, energy-efficient fittings and lifts that stop at every level instead of every four floors.

There’s also an air-conditioned lounge with television, internet access and mahjong tables. In the courtyard, shades were installed over benches where residents often gather. Some ground floor units were turned into elderly friendly flats, with supports in the toilets and easy-to-reach switches.

A gardening patch offers another opportunity to socialise as well as grow vegetables such as onions, tomatoes and cabbage.

Choi Lin-ho, a grandmother who has lived on the estate for 44 years, appreciates not having to climb several flights of stairs. “We really wanted to see the estate revamped, but the change that I like the best is the lift,” she says.

For serviced apartment operators such as Shama, renovation makes better sense than rebuilding. “We found the fastest way to work in this city is to buy buildings that are well-located and add value,” says Shama CEO Elaine Young.

Only large developers have the capital to buy a site and spend four or five years erecting a new block, she adds.

Among Shama’s newest properties is a 46-year-old commercial building in Fortress Hill, which has been transformed after an overhaul into a sophisticated apartment block. By carrying out major repairs, Shama avoided having to create rubble by razing the block, and then using another 1,500 tonnes of concrete and 50,000 square metres of wood to erect a new tower in its place.

Getting the shabby 18-storey structure up to scratch, however, tested architects’ ingenuity. The concrete was crumbling in places and floors were uneven. Extensive illegal construction made existing structural plans obsolete, so fresh ones had to be drawn up. An extension block tacked on to the back of the building had to be properly integrated into the structure, a third lift installed to cater to the handicapped and all the plumbing and wiring redone.

But the result is a triumph. By introducing picture windows and redrawing the layout more efficiently – including reinstating balconies that were illegally enclosed – the designers have created airy, light-filled living spaces. Use of double-glazed glass and energy-efficient lighting has also helped cut electricity bills.

“Tenants are now starting to get environmentally conscious, so it’s now almost expected that we try our best,” says Young.

The prospect of a faster turnaround also prompted owners of The Phoenix, a 22-year-old building in Wan Chai, to overhaul it instead of rebuilding.

“Renovation is actually a low-risk strategy for a developer or a fund,” says Stephen Jones, regional managing principal at Woods Bagot, the international design firm behind the renovation. “This project took 18 months compared to three or four years for a new building.”

Woods Bagot often recommends that clients renovate whenever possible not only because it’s environmentally friendly but also because it makes economic sense.

“It’s pretty hard to turn a 1960s office building in Tsim Sha Tsui into a Grade A office building, but you can reposition it in the market,” Jones says. “It is possible to change their function; it’s easier to turn an office building into a hotel or serviced apartments, for example.”

At The Phoenix, Jones and colleague Mathilde Lucas exposed ceilings to add height and opened the facade to let in light and create loft-style, boutique office space. The idea was to attract tenants in creative fields such as design, architecture and marketing rather than the trading firms that used to occupy the building. “This reflects how Hong Kong is moving from a production base into a intellectual property base,” Jones says.

With 89 per cent of power consumption in Hong Kong linked to buildings – for air conditioning, lights and operating lifts – improving insulation and energy efficiency is a key element in retrofitting for a greener world.

“Better insulation – using thicker walls and double-glazed glass, for example – can cut electricity bills by 40 per cent to 50 per cent,” Law says.

The introduction of energy-saving lights in his office has reduced power bills by 30 per cent.

Jones and his colleagues didn’t have to contend with overheated west-facing walls at The Phoenix. Nevertheless, they installed efficient air conditioning and compact fluorescent lighting, which save energy and produce less heat. “Control systems to switch off electrical appliances after hours are as important,” he says.

“More people under 40 are demanding that their workplace be responsive to world issues and sustainability is one of these issues,” says Jones. “It’s about a 2 to 3 per cent additional cost compared to how much companies might be willing to spend to increase productivity significantly.”

Law says the market is skewed in favour of new construction and that the government should encourage renovation by providing loans for retrofitting and introducing more flexible zoning codes to attract new investors. “The cost of renovating a square foot of land is less than rebuilding,” he says.

Balance sheet aside, Law says renovation makes more sense from an urban planning as well as macro-economic view. “An established community is a closely linked economic network honed to high efficiency over the years and there’s a loss of economic efficiency if people are regrouped,” he says, citing old parts of Wan Chai.

Moon Lok stood out over its care for elderly residents, who didn’t have to move while work was ongoing. “We took care to bring in our architects after hours to explain what they might expect during construction,” Chum says.

To minimise disruption, contractors set up lounges and quiet corners which residents could escape to while renovation was going on near their homes, and consulted schools to work around exam schedules.

“We’re really proud of the new building and you see quite a lot of people in the lounge,” says Woo Yee, a mutual aid committee chairman.

With successful retrofits such as The Phoenix, Law questions whether Hong Kong needs many new commercial buildings when vacated industrial buildings could be adapted for new use. “Unlike 40 years ago when there was a need for new construction, today 95 per cent of our building stock is existing. Shouldn’t we focus on attracting investment into making sure these structures are safe, efficient and environmentally friendly?”

Pedestrians To Rise Above, Pass Under Choking Traffic

Pedestrians to rise above, pass under choking traffic
Underpasses, footbridges planned for congested areas

Anita Lam – SCMP – Updated on Oct 16, 2008

The government has an answer to the problem of pedestrians thronging the narrow footpaths of polluted, traffic-choked Causeway Bay: send the people underground.

And in Mong Kok and Yuen Long town centre, footbridges are to take the people above the traffic.

Announcing the plans in his policy address, Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen described these as ways to “minimise vehicle-pedestrian conflict”. He said the measures, along with “traffic-calming streets” and pedestrianisation, would improve roadside air quality.

A network of underpasses beneath Causeway Bay is to stretch from Victoria Park to the Happy Valley Racecourse. A government source said the network would provide access to as many buildings, places of entertainment and above-ground shopping malls as possible. The underpasses could also be lined with shops.

The source said the underpass connecting Happy Valley to the heart of Causeway Bay was proposed as an alternative to building a Happy Valley station on the planned South Island MTR line.

An underpass would also to link the Great George Street MTR exit in Causeway Bay to Victoria Park to reduce the crowds flowing down the street during big events such as the Lunar New Year carnival and the New Year’s Eve countdown.

A year-long feasibility study would begin next year, a government source said. It would look at whether the MTR Corporation should build the underpasses. Meanwhile officials will study their routing.

In Mong Kok, a footbridge system now linking the MTR’s Mong Kok East station to Fa Yuen Street and Tung Choi Street is to be extended to central Mong Kok and the growing residential developments of Tai Kok Tsui. A similar network would link the Castle Peak Road in Yuen Long to Yuen Long town centre.

“When we know which buildings the underpass will pass through, we will contact their developers and invite ideas, such as how they would like the tunnels to be developed,” the source said.

The government would seek tenders from consultants to conduct a feasibility study for construction of the Causeway Bay underpass network early next year, the source said.

Meanwhile, the Transport and Housing Bureau will invest HK$950 million to install and repair more than 780 lifts and escalators in housing estates more than 30 years old.

The Housing Department is studying the feasibility of installing lifts and escalators connecting common areas in public-housing estates on hillside sites. It will also explore installing lifts in walk-up, low-rise public-housing blocks.

‘Beginner’ Air Quality Standards Criticised

Cheung Chi-fai – SCMP – Updated on Oct 16, 2008

The government is considering adopting a set of what critics called “beginner-level” World Health Organisation pollution standards to replace the city’s outdated air quality objectives.

The chief executive outlined the plan in the policy address, marking the first time the administration has offered clear ideas on how it is going to revise the objectives as a result of a review launched last year.

Donald Tsang Yam-kuen did not, however, give any time frame for achieving the objectives.

The proposed standards, if adopted, would see Hong Kong taking on pollutant level standards up to 64 per cent more stringent than the present ones. A new standard on fine particles suspended in the air might also be introduced.

“To improve the air quality in the long run, we will adopt targets in stages, giving due regard to the World Health Organisation’s guidelines,” Mr Tsang said.

Released in 2006, the WHO guidelines, based on the latest scientific evidence, are designed to protect people from air pollution. They list up to three sets of recommended interim targets for different types of air pollutants before the ultimate objectives are achieved.

Mr Tsang said one feasible way to improve air quality was to boost the use of natural gas to produce 50 per cent of electricity, which could be made possible by a recent deal with the mainland for a long-term gas supply.

Highlighting air quality as one of his top priorities, Mr Tsang said the government would continue to improve the air in co-operation with Guangdong as both parties were working on turning the delta region into a quality living environment.

Critics said the targets were too low to protect people’s health. They insisted more aggressive targets should be adopted.

“While the policy address says Hong Kong is a modern and advanced city, we are adopting beginner-level targets [designed] for the developing world. No developed country would ever set its eyes on these targets any more,” said Alexis Lau Kai-hon, an atmospheric scientist with the University of Science and Technology.

Professor Lau said he was also disappointed by the lack of effective measures to address air pollution.

But a senior environment official said Mr Tsang’s statement on air quality targets was a “strong political message” of commitment to the WHO’s ultimate standards.

“Now everybody knows the direction we are heading but we can’t decide a time frame now as there has not been any public discussion yet,” the official said, promising that the public would be consulted both on targets and control measures.

The official said the targets set would inevitably depend on achievability. The pace of implementation would depend on public acceptance and affordability.

Friends of the Earth expressed disappointment, while Greenpeace urged Mr Tsang to make a clear commitment to the WHO’s ultimate targets.

Living In Zhongshan A Breath Of Fresh Air

Living in Zhongshan a breath of fresh air – for PR consultant Anna Fang, finding a dream home across the border was worth overcoming the many obstacles

Neil Runcieman – SCMP – Updated on Oct 15, 2008

Public relations consultant Anna Fang found herself in a dilemma about a year ago. She wanted to buy a place to live and preferably one she could later retire in.

It wasn’t going to be in Hong Kong, though, because the money she was ready to spend was not going to buy her the kind of home she wanted, and she was determined to escape from the city’s air-pollution.

But she needed to stay close enough to Hong Kong to be able to carry on working, and because that was where all her friends and contacts were.

The options on the mainland did not look appealing. Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Guangzhou, Dongguan and Foshan hardly fulfilled the brief of cleaner air and a better quality of life. Then she discovered Zhongshan.

“It’s really surprising how few people in Hong Kong have even heard of Zhongshan. It’s only 90 minutes from Tsim Sha Tsui by direct ferry and the environment is very much like California – beautiful scenery, clean air, hills, greenery and a slower pace of life. It’s been deemed a `special ecology zone’ by the mainland and received an award from the United Nations.”

Zhongshan and nearby Nanhai have been designated by the central government as the National Model City of Environmental Protection, National Garden City, National Sanitary City and National Advanced Civilised City.

Ms Fang said that although the search for her ideal home in Zhongshan was ultimately rewarding, the process of getting there was at times highly frustrating.

“I found that the sales agents weren’t very helpful or well-trained. In Hong Kong, when I started looking at the various promotional exhibitions for properties around Zhongshan, I intentionally spoke English because I wanted to make sure I would be dealing with an international environment and culture. The agents pretty much ignored me and gave me little or no useful information. It was only when I went to Zhongshan and started hunting around that I obtained reliable information and decent service. The good news is that I was able to find a development of true international standard. The search took at least six months but the purchasing only lasted one month.”

Once she had made the decision to buy, at a development called La Cite Greenville by China’s second-largest developer Agile, she was confronted with new challenges.

“You have to have patience and perseverance. There is a lot of bureaucracy but the two sales agents I dealt with gave me good customer service. All of the documents are in Chinese, of course, and had to be translated. I also `lost’ one apartment through not understanding properly that just because I’d made a commitment and put down some money, that didn’t necessarily guarantee me the specific apartment I wanted. So I had to start all over again. You really have to study their rules and procedures very carefully. I kept suggesting to the salespeople that they should give buyers a list of what we are responsible for – like changing foreign currency into yuan. But to no avail.”

All Chinese property is sold on a leasehold basis. Chinese nationals obtain 70-year leases when they buy. Foreigners are only entitled to 50 years. Ms Fang believes this should not be a barrier to purchase as the leases are likely to be renewed automatically at no additional cost. The biggest challenge for foreign investors, she discovered, was in transferring the necessary funds in yuan into the mainland to seal the deal.

“The first time I tried the bank told me everything would be fine, but when I got to China, all the money was still in Hong Kong dollars. And when I did manage to transfer in yuan, the maximum allowed was 20,000 [HK$22,680] per day. If you’re looking to fund a purchase of more than US$100,000 that can present a genuine hurdle.”

Also, mainland procedures can require purchasers to deposit passports while payments or documents are processed – hardly convenient for international buyers looking to fly in to complete the transaction in the course of a brief stay. Ultimately, she overcame all the frustrations and occasional setbacks, and took possession of her dream home earlier this year. Decorations and re-designs will last into next year, but she is satisfied in having a place of her own that she believes has a healthy future on all levels.

“I looked at the total package. The environment, the surrounding town, the setting, the local people, the infrastructure, the networks, accessibility to good medial care and transport. I think I’m going to be happy there,” she said.

Her advice to prospective purchasers is more cultural than procedural, however. “You have to like China, the Chinese culture and the people. You also have to establish a good relationship with your sales agent. Many of these properties have overseas Chinese such as Singaporeans, Malaysians, Hong Kong Chinese and wealthy mainlanders as the homeowners. And there is the language barrier. People locally can speak a lot of English, but they’re not necessarily going to let you know that.”

Was it worth the effort? “There were some stressful moments but now I am actually quite interested in buying a second property as an investment,” she said. “And the cost of living is much lower than Hong Kong, while the living standards are very good.”

Guangdong Admits It Is Unlikely To Meet 2010 Pollution Targets

He Huifeng – SCMP – Updated on Oct 15, 2008

Guangdong authorities have admitted for the first time that the province will probably be unable to meet five-year pollution-reduction targets as promised to the central government, mainland media reported. Officials also said 44 towns and one city in Guangdong still did not have any waste water treatment facilities, while waste water treatment plants in several other cities were lying idle or underused.

In 2005, Guangdong signed an agreement with the State Environmental Protection Administration pledging to cut sulfur dioxide emissions and lower chemical oxygen demand (COD) by 15 per cent by 2010. Sulfur dioxide is a chief air pollutant, while a COD test is an important parameter determining the amount of organic pollution in water.

But a midterm review by the provincial environmental protection bureau showed emissions were still severe and a lot more effort was required if the 2010 targets were to be met, Nanfang Daily said yesterday. The review said sulfur dioxide emissions declined by about only 9 per cent between 2005 and June this year, meeting just 60 per cent of the 2010 target. COD progress was even more depressing, with the province meeting just one-third of its target.

The latest statistics are an embarrassment to Guangdong’s leaders, who have repeatedly pledged to clean up the environment.

A provincial environmental official said he released the report to raise public awareness about the seriousness of pollution and to warn city governments to rethink their development strategies. “The developed areas, such as the Pearl River Delta, are doing better. But the pollution problems remain severe, or worse, in those areas in north or west Guangdong,” the official said.

Wang Canfa , an environmental expert at the China University of Political Science and Law, said the province should introduce more restrictions to meet the 2010 targets. “It is definitely not an unrealistic goal for Guangdong to cut emissions by 15 per cent,” she said. “Authorities always cite revenue losses or unemployment as excuses to not remove high-polluting heavy industries.” Professor Wang also urged Guangdong to increase investment in environmental protection.

Slow Reaction To Pollution Woes

SCMP – Oct 14, 2008

Am I the only person to have noticed how quickly individual governments and economic organisations have been able to react to the financial meltdown?

Seemingly, with very little investigation as to what really has caused it and what can be done to prevent it again, they have been able to find billions. Yet when it comes to the environmental meltdown, such as polluted air and water and global warming, governments procrastinate – saying the research is inclusive, the free market will solve it and that it is just too expensive to fix.

The trillions of dollars currently being spent propping up a defective system would have gone a long way to tackling these problems and ensuring a safer, healthier place for our children.

The government’s lightning reflexes show that money is far more important than clean air or water. Let’s hope that in 20 or 30 years there will be enough left of both these so that the bankers can enjoy their money.

Gareth Jones, North Point

HK’s Competitiveness Threatened By Poor Air Quality: Survey

Angela Seet – SCMP – Updated on Oct 14, 2008

The seriousness of Hong Kong’s air pollution could affect the city’s competitiveness, the American Chamber of Commerce warned on Tuesday.

The chamber said its latest survey raised concerns about the impact pollution was having on attracting people to work in Hong Kong.

AmCham’s third annual environment survey of 318 member companies showed 40 per cent of them had difficulty attracting professionals to the territory. In addition, 69 per cent knew professionals who intended to leave; and 56 per cent said they would prefer not work in Hong Kong because of the bad air pollution.

AmCham chairman Steven DeKrey said: “This year’s findings reinforce the reality that air pollution not only threatens our health but also the long-term competitiveness of Hong Kong as a world-class talent centre in Asia.”

AmChan urged the government to take more action to improve air quality.

“This year’s survey suggests that Hong Kong can productively focus on other aspects of air pollution especially ground-level pollution,” Mr DeKrey said. “This is something the residents and the government can address together,” he added.

The respondents support the government rapidly phasing out all diesel-run vehicles (81 per cent), bringing air quality objectives in line with those of the World Health Organisation (80 per cent), and using the cleanest buses (72 per cent).

Other key findings included:

  • Some 97 per cent supported converting diesel-run vehicles to liquified petroleum gas (LPG)
  • Ninety-one per cent wanted more ‘pedestrian only’ zones in the city centre
  • Eighty-one per cent were prepared to pay more for cleaner public transport.

However, not many were confident things would change in the next 12 months. Nearly 90 per cent of respondents felt the “quality of the natural environment in Hong Kong will not improve”, the survey noted.

What Do You Think Of HK’s Low Rating For Raising Children?

SCMP – Updated on Oct 14, 2008

Having recently relocated to Hong Kong with three children under the age of nine, I was very surprised that the article on expatriates raising children in Hong Kong did not even mention air quality (“City rated poorly by expatriate parents”, October 9).

The number one issue we have faced since moving our children to the city is the air pollution.

Having moved from Australia, most people we talked to back home cited air pollution as the main reason they would not consider moving to Hong Kong regardless of the salary or opportunities on offer. The air and water pollution has turned out to be a much bigger issue than we imagined and would be the main reason for returning home.

The second issue is the cost of schooling and quality of food.

Last, outside play would be a consideration.

Danni Harnett, Pok Fu Lam