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March 5th, 2009:

Call For Regular Rain-Making To Relieve Drought-Hit Areas

SCMP – 5th March 2009

Artificial rainfall should become a routine practice in some drought-affected areas of the country, says NPC delegate Zong Qinghou. He said some areas in the north and northwest had endured many droughts, and occasional use of artificial rainfall could only ease that pressure. He said the rain-making efforts would not change the environment and would improve the quality of people’s lives. He proposed that the nation’s weather watchers create a team dedicated to inducing rain regularly, reports.

Environmentally Friendly And Cost-Effective Minibus Design


I think minibus designs should be changed to make them more environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

Also, I think reintroducing buses without air conditioning is one way to help people who take long trips to work, cope better with the economic downturn.

Most buses have too much air conditioning. Even in the winter it is switched on which is a waste of energy.

In fact, during the peak flu season air conditioning can help spread flu in enclosed spaces. In a redesigned minibus it would be possible to have more control over air-conditioning settings.

Also, if some buses did not have air conditioning on some routes, this could make fares cheaper for people on low incomes having to commute from some remote areas to the urban areas of Hong Kong. This would lower their transport costs.

Stefan Lam Kit-yung, Tuen Mun

A Fresh Start

Updated on Mar 05, 2009 – SCMP

Some things will need to change as Hong Kong people demand a more healthy living environment. The sooner our government and politicians respond to this, the sooner their popularity will rise. Even during tough economic times, people still want to protect their health. Inaction on this issue cannot be excused simply because “it costs more”.

A headline in the Sunday Morning Post sounded a warning: “Parents question decision to build MTR air vent next to school”. Parents of students attending Bonham Road Government Primary School are fighting the railway operator’s plan to site a ventilation shaft next to the school. The company and government say the shaft acts like a window to improve air exchange and will not spew out pollution.

What is interesting is the concern of parents. A few years ago, such a protest would probably not have happened. Today, people are far more concerned about public health. They are asking questions and demanding answers.

Parents should focus on how far away schools are from major roads; vehicle emissions are a health hazard for everyone, but especially children.

In the US, a school sited within 400 metres of a highway is considered within an air-pollution danger zone. If we were to apply this standard to Hong Kong, many of our schools situated right by busy roads with very high daytime pollution levels would not pass muster. Equally threatening to health is the undesirable “street canyon effect” that traps pollution between tall buildings.

Planners and officials might protest that it is impossible to ensure schools in Hong Kong are sited further away from busy roads because of the high urban density, but this assumption should not be taken at face value. We should at least ask how, in a city like ours, we can protect public health, especially of youngsters whose physical development can be impaired by pollution.

Children are not just miniature adults: they eat, drink and breathe at much higher rates; their growing bodies more readily absorb contaminants; and their developing immune systems make them more prone to diseases and disorders caused by exposure to toxins. Polluting emissions near schools, where children spend many hours a day, pose a huge threat to students’ health. Although the science is clear, we have not yet taken public health into account when planning our city.

Turning on air filter systems indoors will help, to a point. But, if the overall air quality is poor, all of us suffer.

In such a dense and built-up city, shouldn’t the attitude be “we need to work harder to minimise health risks” rather than “we can’t do much about it”? The political will of our leaders is paramount. Very little will change from a “business-as-usual” approach. Much more can be done if they adopt the Hong Kong “can-do” attitude our officials so loudly crow about when it comes to business matters.

For Hong Kong to have a chance to be a healthier city, the Development Bureau (which is in charge of urban planning), the Transport and Housing Bureau and the Environment Bureau first need to work together, rather than stay in their own bunkers. The heads of these policy bodies need to know, through legislation, what Hong Kong’s priorities are.

Laws such as the Air Pollution Control Ordinance need to be overhauled so that public health becomes the clear driver for planning and emissions control. Air quality standards must also be drastically tightened to make them at least consistent with modern health standards in science.

The government will argue that it is “reviewing the standards” but, if the whole of the government is not given a unifying vision and mission to make health a top priority through strong policy and laws, it won’t be enough.

Parents arise! We owe nothing less to our children.

Christine Loh Kung-wai is chief executive of the think-tank Civic Exchange.

Hong Kong Air Pollution Rap by MC Yan