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October, 2009:

Can you breathe yesterday?

Air pollution index in Central reaches 172 yesterday.

Air pollution index in Central reaches 172 yesterday.

Yesterday the air pollution in Hong Kong is serious. The air pollution index in Central reaches 172 which is the second high record since 2000. The roadside readings in Causeway Bay and Mong Kok were also serious, recorded 142 and 135 respectively.

The cause of the serious pollution yesterday was high levels of nitrogen dioxide. At 8pm they were nearly 50 per cent above the target and double the new limit the government has proposed. The dispersion of pollutant was reduced because of the impact of Severe Tropical Storm Lupit near the Philippines.

But surprisingly the air quality in the Pearl River Delta had improved. The average concentration of sulphur dioxide was decreased, while other pollutants for example ozone had increased.

This show the fact that air pollution is very complex, it various in types of pollutants and different locations, and is affected by many external factors. However, we can still do much on it. Try to imagine if our air is clean with only a few pollutants, even we are under the impact of the typhoon and the dispersion of pollutant was reduced, we can still breathe clean air.


By Cheung Chi-fa, 24th Oct, 2009

The Pollution Leviathan

Container ship can be serious pollution source.

Container ship can be serious pollution source.

To tackle air pollution problem, government’s effort is very important. If the government frames the problem properly, then she can increase the effectiveness of the policy adopted.

However, the HKSAR Government had made two mistakes on the air pollution issue. Firstly, she claimed that we can do nothing about the poor air quality in Hong Kong, as the pollutants are mainly coming from the Guangdong area but not coming from Hong Kong people. Secondly, she thought that the main source of air pollution is coming from the land, so the measures tackling air pollution are mainly imposed on vehicles. However the government is ignoring the impact of marine air pollution.

Study from University of Science and Technology shown that one of the main pollution sources in Hong Kong is the container port located in Kwai Chung. The sulphur dioxide emitted by port facilities and containers put the health of three million people at risk. But we can see the government do not adopted measure that tackling the problem, and let the pollution Leviathan, the containers, continuous to emitted pollutants.

The government claims that the cross-border winds bring the pollutants from the Guangdong area. But the case is that the control over the vessels and port facilities can improve the air pollution problem a lot. Hit the jump for more information about the facts about containers pollutions.


New measures to help HK’s environment proposed

POLICY ADDRESS 2009, Staff reporters, SCMP

Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen on Wednesday announced some new initiatives aimed at helping to protect Hong Kong’s environment.

Near the end of his 90 minute annual policy address, Tsang told the Legislative Council the government planned to replace incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs).

“CFLs consume 70 per cent less electricity than incandescent light bulbs of the same light intensity,” he explained.

“To promote the replacement of incandescent light bulbs by CFLs, the two power companies [CLP Power (SEHK: 0002) Hong Kong and Hongkong Electric (SEHK: 0006) Company] will distribute cash coupons to residential electricity account holders for CFLs.”

He said the government would also promote electric vehicles.

“The Environment Bureau [ENB] has been working with a number of electric vehicle manufacturers. We expect a supply of around 200 electric vehicles for the local market in the coming financial year,” he said.

The chief executive said the government would work with the two power companies to launch an electric vehicle leasing scheme by the end of 2010.

“Upon implementation of these two programmes, Hong Kong will rank second in Asia after Japan, where electric vehicles are most widely used,” Tsang said.

He said the government would continue to encourage different sectors to conduct carbon audits in buildings and to reduce carbon emissions.

“Last year, more than 100 organisations joined the initiative. As for the proposed district cooling system at the Kai Tak Development, construction works are expected to commence early next year,” the chief executive said.

Tsang also announced other measures in the policy address. These included:

  • Plans to boost innovation and technology by allocating about HK$200 million to launch an “R&D Cash Rebate Scheme”.

“Under this scheme, enterprises conducting applied research and development projects with the support of the Innovation and Technology Fund or in partnership with local designated research institutions will enjoy a cash rebate equivalent to 10 per cent of their investments,” he said.

  • Encourage greater co-operation between Hong Kong and Shanghai. Tsang said the two cities should work together, adding: “The competition between Hong Kong and Shanghai is not a zero-sum game.

“I believe that Hong Kong can work in collaboration with Shanghai and leverage our respective strengths to contribute to the development of financial services in the mainland.”

  • Further development of Hong Kong’s medical sector. The government would invite expressions of interest from the market to develop private hospitals. These could provide traditional Chinese medicine on four sites at Wong Chuk Hang, Tseung Kwan O, Tai Po and Lantau.

Tsang said the government planned to introduce standards for Chinese herbal medicines in Hong Kong. “We aim to extend our coverage from the current 60 herbal medicines to about 200 by 2012,” he said.

  • Developing Hong Kong’s status as a regional education hub. The government would increase the total commitment of its start-up loan scheme by HK$2 billion to help higher institutions meet the costs of purpose-built accommodation and facilities. It has also allocated four greenfield sites to four operators for international school development.
  • Opening up the mainland market further for Hong Kong’s creative industries – for example, the film industry under the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (Cepa).

Kwai Chung is one of the sources of HK air pollution


14th Oct, 2009

For years, the government shrugged off concerns about poor air quality as being all but out of its control. Factories in Guangdong, and weather patterns, were blamed for the grey pall hanging overhead. Study upon study, the latest involving the container port at Kwai Chung, have since found that the pollution is mostly our own doing. That it persists, and is in some instances getting worse despite cleaner industries across the border and closer environmental co-operation, confirms what we should have known – and been trying to tackle – all along.

Amid public pressure, authorities have taken tentative and small steps to make the air clearer and healthier. The strategy has been a bottom-up one: legislating for cleaner fuel for private cars, taxis and minibuses, but often leaving the obligations for the bigger polluters voluntary. Emission caps for the two electricity producers have been tightened. But they, together with bus companies, transport operators and ferry firms should be put under greater pressure to switch. The government, meanwhile, has seemingly turned a blind eye to shipping.

Emissions from our two power stations create the majority of the smog, yet the bulk of the electricity they generate still comes from the most polluting fuel, coal. More needs to be done to change this. Only a small proportion of their output is from natural gas, the choice of environmentally-conscious governments elsewhere.

While government measures have significantly lessened low-lying urban pollution, analysis by the South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583, announcements, news) last month of data from monitors found it continued to be alarmingly high at street level in Central, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok. Of particular concern was the high prevalence of microscopic particulates that result from the burning of diesel; they are especially harmful to health. There can be no clearer evidence of a lack of attention to ensuring buses and trucks use cleaner fuel. Nor, given the finding, can the problem be blamed on cross-border winds.

A University of Science and Technology study last week found the same to be the case with emissions of sulphur dioxide from the container port at Kwai Chung. Contrary to assertions from authorities that high sulphur levels in the area had blown from the mainland, the research indicated it emanated from shipping and port operations. The health of as many as three million people had been put at risk, the study said.

Container ships use highly-toxic bunker fuel. Maritime industry data shows the biggest vessels each emit as much pollution as 50 million cars. International agreements permit sea-going craft to burn bunker fuel with up to 4.5 per cent sulphur content. Vehicles on Hong Kong roads use diesel containing 0.005 per cent sulphur.

Government proposals to clear the pollution from sea-going traffic do not mention container ships and the port. Ferries, pleasure craft and other small boats – which already use fuel with a sulphur content of 0.5 per cent – are being encouraged to use low-sulphur diesel. The lack of interest in port operations is down to the low volume of emissions. Such an approach ignores that the burning of bunker fuel is many times more dangerous to health.

International agreements are moving slowly. Fuel standards for ocean-going vessels will be changed to 3.5 per cent sulphur content by 2012. Port cities in Europe and North America, worried about public health, are forming partnerships to force ships entering their waters to use cleaner fuel. Hong Kong can no longer ignore the problem; it has to follow suit in the name of clean air and water.

Christian Masset – Clear The Air

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Pollution mostly local, study finds

Cheung Chi-fai, SCMP

Sulphur dioxide pollution in Hong Kong is mostly generated in the city, particularly in the container port and by shipping, a leading atmospheric scientist has found.

Dr Alexis Lau Kai-hon, an associate professor at the University of Science and Technology’s Institute for the Environment, said the findings of a study suggested that pollutant criteria proposed in the government’s air quality review had to be tightened further or public health would continue to be at great risk.

Lau recently compared sulphur dioxide concentration data for winters and summers between 2007 and this year. He found that sulphur dioxide concentrations were higher in summer, when southerly winds from the ocean prevailed, than in winter, when northerlies blew from the mainland.

“It suggests the pollution source is local rather than regional,” he said.

Lau found some of the highest sulphur dioxide concentrations in and around the Kwai Chung container port area, indicating that cargo ships and port operations were a big source of pollution. He said they had huge health effects at ground level.

While power generation remained the single largest source of sulphur emissions in Hong Kong, accounting for nearly 90 per cent, Lau said that the shipping sector’s effects on health could be five times greater than that of power plants because of the port’s close proximity to more than three million residents. The medical community has long warned that exposure to high concentrations of sulphur emissions can impair respiratory functions and aggravate existing heart and lung diseases.

Lau said the emissions data studied also showed a remarkable difference in concentrations before and after the global economicdownturn, which began towards the end of last year.

Sulphur dioxide concentrations fell by an average of 25 per cent after the downturn began, when there was an 11 per cent drop in the number of cargo ships, Lau said. The first eight months this year saw 19,790 vessels calling at the port, compared with 22,340 in the same period last year.

Lau said the findings highlighted the urgent need to address air pollution from marine sources, as most ocean-going vessels were still using fuel oil with up to a 2.5 per cent sulphur content. That was 2,500 times higher than the sulphur content in diesel fuel used by road transport.

Lau said pollution by ships was a huge problem, and criteria proposed by the Environment Bureau under the air quality objectives review seemed far too loose to protect people’s health.

The proposed sulphur emissions objective, an average daily concentration of 125 micrograms per cubic metre of air – the lowest interim target allowed by the World Health Organisation – had already been met, Lau said. A more stringent standard of 50 micrograms per cubic metre of air should be used, he said. That would bolster moves to clean up pollution.

“Without a further tightening of the sulphur dioxide standard, there is little basis for further control of the pollutant in the marine sector even though we know the sulphur-laden fumes from marine sources are posing a significant health threat to the population,” Lau said.
Nineteen measures, ranging from using cleaner fuel for power generation to phasing out polluting vehicles, have been proposed by the bureau. None specifically tackle emissions from ocean-going ships.

The only ship-related measure was a proposal, without a clear time frame, to require local vessels, including ferries, to use low-sulphur diesel fuel.

According to a report last year by the Civic Exchange think tank, the pollution related to port activities and ocean-going vessels could also be addressed by designating Hong Kong and its neighbouring regions as sulphur-emission control areas.

A similar zone is in place in the Baltic Sea and North Sea, where ships are only allowed to burn fuel with a sulphur content of 1.5 per cent or less. But any proposal for such a designation for Hong Kong would have to be raised by Beijing at the International Maritime Organisation, which sets global fuel-use standards for ships.

The organisation has also endorsed a plan to limit sulphur content in cargo-ship fuel to just 0.5 per cent sulphur content by 2020, although the port of Los Angeles has already implemented that.

On Wednesday, Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah told lawmakers that the government would raise the low-emission shipping zone issue with the mainland in discussions on post-2010 emission-reduction matters.

An existing agreement on emission-reduction issues will expire by the end of next year.

Arthur Bowring, managing director of the Hong Kong Shipowners’ Association, said ship-fuel issues needed to be tackled from both global and local angles.

He said there should be local laws in Hong Kong and Guangdong to control ship fuel, and both places should endorse such laws simultaneously so that all ships entering the region had to comply.

Bowring said that it would neither be practical nor conducive to fair competition to unilaterally impose fuel restrictions in either Hong Kong or Shenzhen but not both together. But he said he was optimistic that a cross-border agreement would be ready in a few years.
“It will need strong government and political will to put it in place. With the right incentives, right regulations and funding, it can be done.”

HK Earth Champions Knowledge Pond Launched

Source: Earth Champions

The launch of the Hong Kong Earth Champions Knowledge Pond will be a celebrated unveiling of a rich and diverse collection of local wisdom and environmental solutions from the community of Hong Kong.

The Knowledge Pond is a resource that will serve to improve Hong Kong’s local environment by offering practical solutions and knowledge tha can help the community alleviate climate change.

To learn more please visit:


A Post from Christian Masset, Clear the Air: