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Superfund Urged To Combat Pollution

The Council for Sustainable Development (CSD) of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region yesterday suggested that a superfund be set up with money from budget surplus to protect environment.

Speaking at the Air Summit, where Chief Executive Donald Tsang was also present, Edgar Cheng, chairman of the council, said that it was time to set up an Air Quality Clean-up Superfund as Hong Kong had a huge fiscal surplus.

He, however, didn’t specify how much the sum should be.

Cheng also said the superfund “will be money well spent and a true investment in the future. It also shows that Hong Kong is serious and committed to tackling air pollution”.

He also pointed out that the special administrative region must balance mandatory measures and voluntary actions to combat pollution.

Cheng said the council would submit a report with recommendations to the government by the middle of next month.

At the summit the council released results of more than 81,000 public questionnaires which they had received from June to October.

Most respondents (77 percent) supported increasing transport costs for cleaner air.

Seventy-six percent said the special administrative region should use as much public transport as possible.

More than 40 percent backed having an electronic road pricing.

About half of respondents preferred color alert system on polluted days.

John Bacon-Shone, director of Social Sciences Research Center of the University of Hong Kong, who analyzed the questionnaires’ results for the council, said the results had shown most people are in favor of the “polluter pays” principle.

For example, pre-Euro trucks should pay more because these were polluting vehicles, he explained.

He, however, added that respondents were not asked about the amount of increase in transport cost.

In his opening speech to the summit, the chief executive stressed the importance of clean air in boosting Hong Kong’s economy.

“To keep our economy growing, we have to improve air quality and provide a good living environment to attract investors and talents to stay in Hong Kong,” he said.

“We should think if we were willing to change our habits or pay some price to improve air quality,” Tsang pointed out.

The chief executive added that he would fully consider the council’s recommendations to set up a long-term environmental policy for Hong Kong.

Jonathan Wong, biology professor with Hong Kong Baptist University, said it would always be good to put more resources into environmental protection.

However, he pointed out since the government had already pumped in HK$1 billion into the Environment and Conservation Fund, the council might have overlapped function with the Environment Conservation Committee.

Wong said he was not clear whether the superfund was intended for community education or changing infrastructure.

(China Daily HK Edition December 18, 2007)

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