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Government Must Do More To Clean Up Air

SCMP – Dec 02, 2008

It would seem as if the government is taking a large step towards improving air quality in Hong Kong by agreeing to revise the air quality objectives according to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) air quality guidance.

The latest policy address promised this [so-called] improvement and Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah said later that Hong Kong would follow the WHO standards, but only the preliminary targets.

What the government is offering is not enough to improve Hong Kong’s air quality.

For example, the annual concentration rate for respiratory suspended particulates (RSP) in the new standard is 70 micrograms per cubic metre.

The present RSP standard is 55 micrograms per cubic metre.

Why is our government adopting the higher figure, which is a lowering of standards? The WHO’s guidance comprises a series of targets across different stages which leads to an ultimate target.

The new figure, in accordance with the WHO’s lowest standard, is not in line with much stricter targets. Why is the government adopting a target for air quality that poses a higher risk for citizens?

The air quality objectives that the administration adopts should benefit Hongkongers. If it really wants better air for Hong Kong, it must immediately revise its air quality objectives to the most stringent level.

The present level will not lead to an improvement of our air.

We should have an air quality constitution, which would lay down all policies related to our air and which would influence areas such as city planning and urban renewal.

For example, stricter air quality objectives could halt the construction of buildings that would be responsible for the “wall effect” – blocked air circulation – and they might lead to a reduction of the number of cars travelling through Central and so result in less congestion. Greenpeace is dissatisfied that the government has come up with a piecemeal plan.

The government must have a clear timetable and adopt the most stringent air quality standards, so that Hong Kong citizens can enjoy clear air.

Prentice Koo, campaigner, Greenpeace

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