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Local banker donates smog monitor to green group

SCMP – Laisee

10 Feb 2012

While the government continues to stonewall local pressure groups’ demands to improve air, others within the community are voting with their feet. Take Alex Turnbull, son of the prominent Australian politician Malcolm Turnbull. He’s an investment banker and has lived in Hong Kong for six years, but found the city’s air was making him sick. He’s had asthma since he was a child so is acutely aware of the air quality here and its impact. He’s a rower and within a week of being in Hong Kong noticed his slower performance. He’s asked his company to transfer him to Singapore where the air is cleaner and will be leaving in a couple of months with his fiancee. But he was struck by the impact that the US embassy in Beijing had when it installed a device for measuring the air quality on its roof and started publishing the results on its website.

The popular indignation at the disparity between official air-quality figures provided by the government and those of the US embassy went some way towards pushing the central government to announce tighter air quality objectives. Turnbull feels so strongly about the issue that he has donated a similar high-quality mobile DustTrak to Hong Kong’s Clear the Air group. “My view is that by donating these instruments, Clear the Air can collect the data and show the public how bad the air is and make a stronger case to the government – it’s killing people.”

He says he’s surprised that given the extent of the charitable activities by New World Group, which owns the Citybus bus company, it can’t come up with the roughly US$100 million he calculates it would take to get the 200 or so buses with Euro I to Euro III engines off the road. “It’s almost worth starting a charity to pay off that amount,” he says. Clear the Air chairman Jim Middleton says his group will start measuring PM2.5 particles in Hong Kong’s air within a month or so and will publish the results on its website.

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