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Defending cleaner air measures

The AQMS of the EPD are set at heights far above the noses of the public and wheelchairs and children!

They only release Central PM2.5 data – why is that ?

SCMP 24 Nov 2011

Defending cleaner air measures

Lai See has taken the government to task over air quality, most recently in the piece (“Light to be shed on air quality”, November 3). These comments require clarification.

Improving air quality sits at the heart of the government’s environment policy. We are now finalising our proposal for updating the air quality objectives (AQOs).

They provide not only air quality yardsticks, but also offer statutory standards to be achieved as soon as reasonably practicable. They are also the legal benchmarks for assessing the air quality impacts of major projects. It is imperative for us to identify the necessary improvement measures and draw up a realistic plan for updating the AQOs.

The AQO Review has proposed several measures for attaining the new objectives. Many of them, such as revamping the fuel mix for electricity generation and rationalising bus routes, are controversial and complicated. We must work with stakeholders to find the best ways to take them forward.

Meanwhile, we continue to introduce improvement measures supported by the community.

We have further tightened power plants’ emission caps; enacted the law against idling vehicles; provided incentives to replace polluting vehicles; embarked on a trial of retrofitting selective catalytic reduction devices on franchised buses; set up pilot low-emission zones; set up the Pilot Green Transport Fund to encourage green innovative technologies; and subsidised trials of hybrid and electric buses. We will also strengthen control of petrol and liquefied petroleum gas vehicles and propose raising the quality of marine fuels.

The November 3 article accused us of using outdated equipment to measure air quality. The equipment and procedures deployed in our monitoring network meet the US Environmental Protection Agency’s requirements.

The University of Science and Technology project on air pollution diffusion within traffic streams cannot offer direct comparison with measurements by the Environmental Protection Department’s stations, which are more representative of the public’s air pollution exposure.

As for environmental impact assessments (EIA), the department has considered all EIA reports in accordance with the statutory requirements. Air quality impacts are assessed using sophisticated computer models comparable to those of advanced countries.

All EIA reports are critically examined and comments by the public and the Advisory Council on the Environment fully considered before deciding whether to grant approval.

The merger of the department and the Environment Bureau has not brought any changes to practices or standards in approving EIA reports.

Pang Sik-wing, principal environmental protection officer (air policy), Environmental Protection Department

Locations of roadside PM2.5 monitors undergoing test run

Roadside Air Quality Monitoring Station (AQMS) Location PM 2.5 sampling inlet height*
Central Junction of Chater Road and Des Voeux Road Central, Central, Hong Kong 4.5 m
Causeway Bay On pedestrian walkway outside 1 Yee Wo Street, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong 2.5 m
Mong Kok Junction of Nathan Road and Lai Chi Kok Road, Mong Kok, Kowloon 5.5 m

*The relevant USEPA requirement (for microscale PM2.5 sites) is between 2 to 7 m

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