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June 29th, 2012:

esb250 Runway Expansion proposal – additional information

Transparency and timing

Readers following the third-runway saga will be aware that the initial project profile of the Airport Authority, which sets out what is to be considered in its environmental impact assessment (EIA), was sent back to it with a request for more information. The authority announced yesterday that it had submitted further information.

“We welcome close monitoring of the EIA by all concerned stakeholders and members of the public,” Kevin Poole, the authority’s deputy director, projects, said in a statement. “We are firmly committed to carrying it out in a highly transparent and engaging manner.” A few eyebrows were raised at the announcement’s timing – just before a long weekend.

Here is the link for everyone – the ‘further information’ window dressing file esb250.pdf from the link is attached herewith: it fails to address major points many of us raised in the previous EIA consultation such as the Arup report warning on increased NOx and all the new incinerators being built a few kilometers away across the border in Shenzhen.

Download PDF : esb250

Now, injectable oxygen can avoid cardiac arrest, brain injury

NEW DELHI: Can’t breathe? No worries. Now, oxygen can now be injected.

In a major breakthrough, a team of doctors, chemical engineers and particle scientists from the Boston Children’s Hospital have designed tiny, gas-filled microparticles that can be injected directly into the bloodstream to quickly oxygenate the blood.

This will be a boon for patients unable to breathe because of acute lung failure or an obstructed airway needing another way to quickly get oxygen to their blood to avoidcardiac arrest and brain injury.

Scientists report that an infusion of these microparticles into rabbits with low blood oxygen levels restored blood oxygen saturation to near-normal levels within seconds.

When the trachea was completely blocked, the infusion kept the animals alive for 15 minutes without a single breath and reduced the incidence of cardiac arrest and organ injury.

The microparticles consist of a single layer of lipids (fatty molecules) that surround a tiny pocket of oxygen gas and are delivered in a liquid solution.

Announcing this in the journal of Science Translational Medicine, John Kheir of the Department of Cardiology said the microparticle solutions are portable and could stabilize patients in emergency situations, buying time for paramedics to more safely place a breathing tube or perform other life-saving therapies.

“This is a short-term oxygen substitute — a way to safely inject oxygen gas — to support patients during a critical few minutes. Eventually, this could be stored in syringes on every code cart in a hospital, ambulance or transport helicopter to help stabilize patients who are having difficulty breathing. The microparticles would likely only be administered for a short time, between 15 and 30 minutes, because they are carried in fluid that would overload the blood if used for longer periods,” Kheir said.

The particles are different from blood substitutes, which carry oxygen but are not useful when the lungs are unable to oxygenate them. Instead, the microparticles are designed for situations in which lungs are completely incapacitated.

Kheir began investigating the idea of injectable oxygen in 2006, after caring for a little girl who sustained a severe brain injury resulting from a severe pneumonia that caused bleeding into her lungs and severely low oxygen levels.

Despite the team’s best efforts, she died before they could place her on a heart-lung machine. Frustrated at his inability to save her, Kheir formed a team to search for another way to deliver oxygen.

He said, “We drew each other’s blood, mixed it in a test tube with the microparticles and watched blue blood turn immediately red, right before our eyes.” Over the years, Kheir and his team have tested various concentrations and sizes of the microparticles to optimize their effectiveness and to make them safe for injection.

The team used a device called a sonicator, which uses high-intensity sound waves to mix the oxygen and lipids together. The process traps oxygen gas inside particles averaging two to four micrometers in size (not visible without a microscope). The resulting solution, with oxygen gas making up 70% of the volume, mixed efficiently with human blood. “One of the keys to the success of the project was the ability to administer a concentrated amount of oxygen gas in a small amount of liquid. The suspension carries three to four times the oxygen content of our own red blood cells,” he added.

Intravenous administration of oxygen gas was tried in the early 1900s, but these attempts failed to oxygenate the blood and often caused dangerous gas embolisms. “We have engineered around this problem by packaging the gas into small, deformable particles,” he explained. “They dramatically increase the surface area for gas exchange and are able to squeeze through capillaries where free gas would get stuck,” he added.

Choking up

HK Standard – Friday, June 29, 2012

The city’s air and water quality have improved since the handover 15 years ago but the pace has been slow in recent years, green groups say.

Melonie Chau Yuet-cheung, senior environmental affairs officer of Friends of the Earth, said the SAR government needs to set out both short-term and long- term measures to further clamp down on air and water pollution in the territory.

“Pollution in Hong Kong has been improving, but at quite a slow pace lately,” she said.

Short-term measures mean policies to control pollution within the city, including replacing all old cars with new cars that emit much less pollution. Long- term measures should be co-operation with the neighboring mainland cities because air and water are borderless, Chau said.

Figures from the University of Science and Technology show that the annual average concentration of fine suspended particulates in Central in 1999 was 53 micrograms per cubic meter. The number dropped to 36 in 2009 but rose to 40 last year.

Another example is Causeway Bay, with the reading at 75 in 1999, dropping sharply to 53 in 2002. However, the reading remained at around 45 between 2010 and 2011.

The readings run in contrast to the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines that say the annual concentration of fine suspended particulates should only be 10 micrograms per cubic meter.

Chau said that the improvement in air quality in Causeway Bay between 1999 and 2002 was largely due to then secretary for the environmen

t, transport and works Sarah Liao Sau-tung’s decision to encourage diesel vehicle drivers to switch to liquefied petroleum gas vehicles.

While the incumbent Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang- wah introduced curbs on parked vehicles with running engines recently, Chau said the effectiveness of this measure to curb air pollution is not very apparent.

“While it is true that air pollution during Yau Tang-wah’s term as the secretary for the environment has not worsened, the impact of his measures like banning idling engines is not obvious,” Chau said.

She said that when then-chief executive Tung Chee-hwa was in office, he trusted Sarah Liao to carry out a series of measures.

But incumbent Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen was worried that pushing for green measures would harm the city’s development, Chau said.

For example, Edward Yau said it will take the government two more years to update the air quality objectives.

Chau sees that as the government being reluctant to push for better air quality in the city. This is because if the objectives are updated, it will mean more stringent standards for environmental assessment for future development projects.

As for water pollution in Hong Kong, Chau believes co-operation with the mainland authorities can be a long- term measure.

“Water pollution is a huge problem because the economic developments in the mainland have been thriving,” she said. And to stop sewage from flowing into Hong Kong, the government must work out a plan to co-ordinate efforts with the mainland, she added.

In fact, Hong Kong, Guangdong and Macau agreed on June 25 on a plan to reduce polluting emissions in the region by 2020.

This is the first regional plan jointly compiled by Hong Kong, Guangdong and Macau, which covers long-term co- operation in five major areas. They include the environment and ecology, low-carbon development, culture and social living, and spatial planning and green transportation systems.

For example, the plan suggests pushing vessels calling at ports in the delta to use cleaner fuel.

Clean Air Network campaign officer Jenny Wong said she welcomes the plan and hopes the SAR government will seize the opportunity to push for better air quality as soon as possible.

She believes that more can be done in addition to measures outlined in the plan. For example, the government can set up low emission zones for transportation, encourage the use of cleaner fuel and establish air quality targets for fine suspended particulates.

Meanwhile, the cross-harbor swim will be held in October for the second year after it was suspended for 33 years over pollution concerns.

Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association assistant honorary secretary David Chiu Chin-hung said the association has been keeping an eye on the water quality in Hong Kong and thinks it is acceptable this year. Swimmers will be swimming all the way from Lei Yue Mun to Sai Wan Ho.

“The reason why we don’t choose to hold the race at Tsim Sha Tsui is that we need to wait for part two of the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme to finish in 2014, which is two more years to go.

“We will keep contact with the Environmental Protection Department,” Chiu said.

HK tycoon must stand trial over La Scala bribe

Joseph Lau is served papers in scandal involving jailed former public works chief Ao Man-long
Jennifer Ngo and Paggie Leung
Jun 29, 2012

Hong Kong property tycoon Joseph Lau Luen-hung has been ordered to trial in Macau in September over accusations he and another developer paid a HK$20 million bribe to secure prime land for luxury flats.

In a statement filed last night with the Hong Kong stock exchange, Lau’s publicly listed Chinese Estates (SEHK: 0127) confirmed that Macau’s Court of First Instance served him papers yesterday ordering him to appear for trial on September 17.

The statement said Lau had for now retained his role as executive director. It did not say whether he intended to go to Macau to face the charges for bribery and money laundering.

lau Teng-pio, a law professor from the University of Macau, said Lau could escape jail time if he stayed away from Macau because the city had no extradition treaties.

“The Macau government cannot demand that the Hong Kong police and government help with arrests,” Iausaid.

The trial comes as little surprise since allegations against Lau played a central role in the recently concluded corruption trial against former Macau public works chief Ao Man-long.

Ao was sentenced last month to 29 years in prison for taking the bribe, which prosecutors said Lau and fellow tycoon Steven Lo Kit-sing paid in 2005 to advance the La Scala project near Macau’s airport.

Investors may nonetheless see confirmation of the trial as damaging since Lau and his family retain control over Chinese Estates. The company could not be reached for comment.

Ricky Tam Siu-hing, a director at Champlus Asset Management, said the company’s share price would face pressure when the market opened today.

But Tam did not expect the stock to fall drastically because accusations about Lau’s involvement had already come out in Ao’s trial and the Lau family held 75 per cent of the shares.

“Not many institutional investors have its shares,” Tam said. “So I don’t think there will be a strong wave of panic selling.”

Chinese Estates shares were priced at HK$11 last month before it was revealed that he would face the charges, and have since hovered around HK$9. The company’s stock ticked up two cents to HK$8.98 at the close of trading before the announcement came out.

The company had sold 300 of the 4,000 flats planned for the La Scala project before cutting off sales and construction in recent weeks.

Chinese Estates has said it will take legal action to stop the Macau government from invalidating the land purchase, and that it was “determined” to pursue compensation claims if it happened.

Your 2012 dartboard with the bull target at centre left


Is Tsang the best financial secretary HK can find?

A closer look at the senior official’s record in the job shows that his forecasts have been way off the mark and his budgets overly conservative on some scores
Tom Holland
Jun 29, 2012

Incoming chief executive C.Y. Leung announced his new government line-up yesterday, and John Tsang Chun-wah is to stay on as financial secretary.

“In the coming few years, the economy of our globalised world will be undoubtedly clouded by uncertainties and volatilities,” Tsang said. “We in Hong Kong will face unprecedented challenges.”

You have to wonder what he’s blathering about. Hong Kong’s economy has experienced nothing but uncertainty and volatility for the last 15 years.

Within a year of the handover both the stock and property markets had plunged 50 per cent. Then in rapid succession we had the dotcom boom and bust, Sars, and the financial crisis.

Still Hong Kong prospered. So there is nothing either unprecedented or unusually challenging about the near future.

Even so, doubtless C.Y. wants a steady pair of hands on the city’s financial tiller, and looking at Tsang’s record, he obviously thinks the bewhiskered one is the right man for the job.

That makes me wonder if C.Y. has really looked closely enough at Tsang’s performance.

As financial secretary Tsang likes to talk up his prudent management of the city’s public purse. Yet in his latest budget speech delivered in February he boasted that “for my five budgets, I have increased government expenditure by nearly 70 per cent. This exceeds GDP growth of 21 per cent for the same period”.

It’s that sort of budgetary prudence that got Europe where it is today.

In one sense, however, Tsang has been overly conservative. Every year since his appointment, Tsang has forecast a budget deficit. And, as the first chart shows, every single year, including the crisis year of 2008-09, the government actually turned in a surplus.

On average since he started the job, Tsang’s initial budget forecasts have been wide of the mark by an astonishing HK$64 billion. On that form, the HK$3.4 billion deficit he is forecasting for the current fiscal year will end up as a HK$61 billion surplus.

Conservatism in budget forecasts is all very well, but this is over-egging the tart on a grand scale. Tsang’s inability to make accurate forecasts and his repeated prediction of deficits when he actually generates fat surpluses hampers the administration’s ability to make long-term fiscal plans and ends up sucking money out of the economy in the form of excessive government reserves.

Of course, Tsang has given some of that money back to Hong Kong’s people. Declaring last year that “fighting inflation is our major task” he announced a set of one-off measures intended to alleviate the pressure of rising prices on ordinary households.

These included a rent holiday for public housing tenants, a rate waiver, and a subsidy for household electricity bills. The overall cost came to some HK$17 billion.

In fact, these measures were hardly original. They simply reinstated earlier anti-inflation efforts dating from Tsang’s debut budget in 2008. Most were rolled over again this year.

Now, at this point anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of economics will protest that you can’t fight inflation by throwing money at the problem.

And as the second chart shows, he or she will be absolutely right. The blue line shows Hong Kong’s official headline inflation rate ever since Tsang’s first budget took effect. The red line shows the underlying inflation rate after stripping out his relief measures.

The most obvious effect of Tsang’s inflation-fighting efforts is that they have merely made Hong Kong’s inflation rate more volatile.

But their impact on overall price rises has been doubtful at best. Looking back over the last three years, we find that the average inflation rate after Tsang’s anti-inflation measures has been 3.3 per cent. Without them, it would have been slightly lower at 3.1 per cent.

In other words, as financial secretary Tsang has been spending some HK$17 billion a year to no good effect whatever. Unfortunately, C.Y. appears to think that makes him ideally qualified for the job.