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October 9th, 2008:

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came after the South China Morning Post revealed the government had yet to make any commitment to update the city’s outdated air-quality objectives, a year after beginning a review of the standards.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

City Rated Poorly By Expatriate Parents

Peter So – Oct 09, 2008 – SCMP

Expatriates give Hong Kong a low rating as a place to raise children because of its high costs and limited outdoor lifestyle, a survey has found.

The city ranked 11th among 14 places covered in the poll, conducted by HSBC (SEHK: 0005, announcements, news) between February and April. Only the Netherlands, Britain and the United Arab Emirates finished below Hong Kong.

The survey asked 2,155 expats, in more than 48 countries, about their experiences of raising children while living and working abroad.

Formula One Circuit Would Just Make Pollution Worse In HK

Updated on Oct 09, 2008 – SCMP

I refer to the letter by Guy Shirra (“We could have had F1 circuit”, September 30).

I would object to a Formula One track or indeed any other type of car-racing circuit in Hong Kong. In an age where global warming and pollution are primary concerns, the toxic emissions from petrol-driven racing car engines can only cause further damage to our environment.

While some may promote the alleged advantages of having an F1 circuit, such as the creation of jobs or the ability to attract tourists, the threat to human and environmental health far outweighs any perceived economic benefit. The deafening sounds from the cars would exacerbate the noise pollution problem in our crowded city. More importantly, however, the exhaust fumes generated through racing would harm the health of not only the residents living near the racing circuit, but also of those living further away, because air pollutants disperse widely. Car racing is an extravagant misuse of oil, a scarce resource which would be better utilised in buses and lorries, which transport people and goods. Racing cars serve no higher purpose than that of amusement, and unnecessarily contribute to our poor air quality.

Mr Shirra said we Hongkongers must somehow distinguish ourselves, to compete with cities like Singapore. Hong Kong is a vibrant city that draws millions of visitors – in 2006, we had 15.8 million tourists, to Singapore’s 7.6 million. However, many potential tourists may well be deterred by the air pollution and opt for greener destinations. Having an F1 circuit is not the hallmark of a world-class city. Having a clean, green environment where residents and visitors alike can enjoy city life, is.

We must understand that the Earth’s ability to sustain life as we know it is being threatened by human activities, and non-renewable resources are being wasted through their careless allocation. Let us be responsible citizens, and conserve the environment that supports our very existence. In this way, all that we take for granted from nature may still be enjoyed by future generations.

T. W. Wong, professor, department of community and family medicine, school of public health, Chinese University of Hong Kong