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January 16th, 2009:

KMB To Phase Out Older Buses

Anita Lam, SCMP – Updated on Jan 16, 2009

Kowloon Motor Bus intends to phase out within three years its 400-plus buses built before 1992 in favour of less polluting models.

The other main franchised bus operators, New World First Bus and Citybus, have pledged to phase out their 90 pre-1992 models – known as pre-Euro because they began operating before the European Union began setting emissions standards in 1992 – by 2012. They will also phase out more than 400 Euro I buses – which meet the EU’s 1992 standards – by then.

KMB principal engineer Kane Shum Yuet-hung said although it operated 401 pre-Euro buses, they had long ago been upgraded to meet the Euro I standards. Likewise its 943 Euro I buses had been upgraded to meet the 1996 Euro II standards.

By next year, when fitting of particulate filters to its 1,675 Euro II and III buses was finished, the emissions of its fleet would be 90 per cent less than they were in 1992.

“After [this upgrade], I guarantee you will never again see black smoke coming from a bus exhaust pipe,” Mr Shum said.

He said the Transport Department had approved its purchase of 145 Euro IV buses that met 2005 EU standards, delivery of which was expected this year. KMB would seek approval later to buy another 256 of the buses to complete the phase-out.

Pre-Euro and Euro I buses accounted for half the 100 tonnes of respirable suspended particles (RSPs) and nitrogen oxides franchised buses emitted in 2006. Euro IV buses emit 97 per cent less RSPs than pre-Euro buses, 61 per cent less nitrogen oxides and 81 per cent less hydrocarbons.

Meanwhile, opposition to another measure to improve air quality rose, with some taxi drivers threatening industrial action unless granted a hot-weather exemption from a proposed ban on idling engines.

But Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah told lawmakers that such an exemption would be unfair to pedestrians, who would feel uncomfortable inhaling engine exhaust on hot days.

Lowest Marks Over Environment

Stephen Chen, SCMP – Updated on Jan 16, 2009

Mainlanders gave the government the lowest marks yet for environmental protection last year, despite unprecedented public spending on such efforts in the lead-up to the Beijing Olympics

Nearly 80 per cent of residents polled felt the environment was “extremely” or “fairly” bad last year, up nearly 10 percentage points from 2007. More than half of the respondents were also dissatisfied with government attempts to solve environmental problems.

The survey was conducted by the China Environmental Culture Promotion Association, a non-profit organisation funded by the Ministry of Environmental Protection. It canvassed nearly 10,000 residents in 31 major cities. Residents in rural areas, where the most polluting factories are located, were excluded.

The interviewees’ environmental awareness had increased, contributing to the surge of negative feedback, the report said.

The report also said the reputations of state-owned enterprises were severely damaged, and blamed the decline on the tainted-milk scandal and other incidents. The enterprises’ approval ratings dropped by more than one-third compared with 2007.

More than half of the people surveyed said the root of the milk scandal lay not in any company’s management but the lack of government supervision.

In contrast, the popularity of foreign firms on the mainland rose sharply last year. Nearly 80 per cent of residents said they trusted overseas companies more on environmental ethics, a practice often neglected by mainland enterprises, the report said.

Residents showed little awareness of Beijing’s costly environmental campaign initiated in recent years. Fewer than 10 per cent of them knew about plans to cut energy consumption by 20 per cent in five years.

And almost all respondents answered incorrectly when asked about who was responsible for the environmental problems in their neighbourhood – the correct answer was the city government.

Top environmental concerns were garbage, noise and pets. Mainland cities produced 130 million  tonnes of waste last year, but only half of it was properly collected and disposed of. Some cities just dumped the waste in suburban areas, causing sanitary and pollution issues.

There is one area where the government seems to be winning points: the ban on plastic bags. In a non-government study funded by the Heinrich Boll Foundation, also released yesterday, more than half of the consumers polled in Beijing’s four downtown districts were using environmental friendly carry bags or using their own plastic bags to shop.