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Tamar Pollution Prediction Far Too Low

South China Morning Post – Sunday November 20 2005

Tamar pollution prediction ‘far too low’

Niki Law

Official environmental report ‘pretends Central has a flat surface’ with no tall buildings, say experts

Official figures seriously underestimate the pollution levels people will face in Central once the new government offices are built at the Tamar site and the surrounding district developed, it has been claimed.

The Sunday Morning Post has learned that air pollution could be three times higher than predicted by the Environmental Protection Department’s 2001 environmental impact assessment (EIA) report, due to miscalculations.

Annelise Connell, vice-chairwoman of Clear the Air, says pollution predictions on the Tamar site and the Central Reclamation Phase III were based on 1999 data plugged into a prediction model that assumes Central has no buildings.

‘The entire air pollution assessment is useless,’ she said. ‘There is not a chance in the world that the real numbers are within objective. The Central Reclamation Project III and Tamar site project would not have been approved if the real figures had been used.’

In the assessment, respiratory suspended particles (RSP) at the Central roadside station were not expected to exceed an average concentration of 80 micrograms per cubic metre and the Air Pollution Index was expected to remain below 100. In reality, the respiratory suspended particles figure has been as high as 257 micrograms and the air pollution index has reached 100 some 97 times.

Meanwhile, air-quality-modelling expert Jimmy Fung Chi-hung says the government’s pollution model ‘pretends Central is a flat surface’ and ignores the fact that pollution gets trapped.

The University of Science and Technology associate professor said a ‘deep canyon’ of pollution was created when buildings by the road were twice as high as the width of the road. ‘Pollution is three times higher than in places where air can flow freely. If you have doubts, just think of how bad the air is in Causeway Bay,’ he said.

‘For a two- to three-lane road, a three-storey commercial building is high enough to create a deep canyon. Cars release exhaust very close to the ground. Central’s canyon would be very deep.’

He suggested the government produce another report using a newer model that considers the buildings. This would take about three months and cost $300,000.

However, the department is standing by its methods and findings. Asked by the Post for comment, a spokeswoman said the study had been conducted in line with environmental impact assessment procedures and the public and the Advisory Council on the Environment had been consulted before the report was approved.

The Constitutional Affairs Bureau felt there was no need to delay the Tamar project, which a spokesman said would have ‘no significant impact on the air pollution in the Central Business District’.

Earth Day 2004

Earth Day 2004

South China Morning Post Editorial
Friday April 23 2004

Facts on pollution must get public airing

Earth Day brought distressing news about the quality of the air we breathe. First was the warning from a Chinese University researcher that a confidential government-commissioned study shows Hong Kong is paying a high public health cost for its relatively weak air quality standards, especially in regard to particulate matter – emissions small enough to damage lungs and other organs.

Then there was the revelation by our largest power producer, CLP Power, that emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide particles have increased dramatically over the past year – thanks in large part to soaring demand from Guangdong and increasingly heavy reliance on coal.

These findings confirm what many of us already knew from just looking out our windows in recent months: despite reductions in certain readings over the past few years, more must be done.

To begin with, the Environmental Protection Department should release the study on the link between air quality and public health without delay. If fine particulates and other pollutants are found in higher concentrations than deemed acceptable in cities overseas – and if they pose a hazard to our health – the public has a right to know. Such information cannot justifiably remain confidential.

Once the facts are known, there can be consideration of whether existing standards need to be revised and how any higher requirements could be met.

The CLP report raises different issues, some of which are best addressed on a region-wide basis. Demand from factories on the mainland soared last year. Coupled with restricted supplies of gas, this meant a heavy reliance on coal and increased pollution. CLP hints at continued reliance on coal in the immediate future and plans to install equipment for filtering the rising level of pollution.

But the efforts should not stop there. Sales to mainland customers have translated into higher profits for the company. More of that income should now be reinvested in expanding pilot projects on renewable energy. Small experiments in wind and hydropower and renewable cell energy have up to now been only tokenistic; now there is a need – and an opportunity – to make them a bigger priority, at little risk to CLP’s bottom line.

Of course, any discussion of the air pollution problem has to acknowledge that Hong Kong-invested companies play a large part in running the factories behind the surge in regional power demand. Likewise, the health effects from coal-fired power plants and diesel-fuelled cars are felt on both sides of the border. It is hoped that policymakers will see the need to put the finger-pointing of recent years behind them and find ways to co-operate on reducing pollution throughout the region.

Our environment officials are beginning to make some progress on convincing Guangdong to improve or close the oldest and most-polluting of its coal-burning electricity plants. But as a region we are very far from finding a way to balance rapid economic development with the equally important project of clearing our skies.

Until a truly effective mechanism for co-operating on regional air quality is set up, the least Hong Kong can do is lead by example and ensure that we do not make matters worse for the delta’s inhabitants. This should include being at the forefront of developing alternatives to coal as an energy source. It also could include more co-operation on improving filtering technology at mainland power plants and raising standards on diesel used in cars, buses and trucks. Last, it should involve frank discussion on the connection between air pollution and health. For that to happen, the findings of the Chinese University study must be released.

Buying an Air Purifier

Published in the SCMP:

Everything you need to know about buying an air purifier
Peta Tomlinson

THERE’S NOTHING LIKE a bout of Sars to get us thinking about the air we breathe. According to the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), indoor air pollution can be responsible for irritations of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, dizziness and fatigue, as well as asthma and lung disorders.

Sars was the trigger that sent hundreds of consumers rushing to buy air cleaners earlier this year, and two of Japan’s major manufacturers, Matsushita and Sharp, had to increase production to cope with demand. So, what do they actually do? And how do they differ from an ordinary air-conditioner?

While some air-conditioners have air-purification mechanisms – certain models by Sharp, Whirlpool and Brandt, for example – air cleaners or purifiers have additional filter functions.

Generally, air cleaners use four types of air filters: general filters, capable of removing bigger particles or dust in the air; HEPA (high-efficiency particle air) filters, effective in removing 99 per cent of dirty air particles down to 0.9-1 microns; carbon filters, containing active carbon which combats unpleasant odours; and iconic filters, which produce negative ions causing pollutants to magnetically draw together and settle on the floor or other surfaces for easier cleaning.

Units with HEPA filters also capture bacteria and are generally regarded as being best for those with nasal allergies or sensitivity to flowers, and are often the top choice for homes with young children. Beware of terms such as ‘HEPA-type’ or ‘HEPA efficiency’: this may not mean the unit has a HEPA filter.

Always ask about noise levels. Because HEPA filters work only when air is drawn through them, this can necessitate a large motor to power the filtering process. Most machines will require regular changing of filters, so be aware of maintenance costs.

Japanese brand Sharp ( and Israeli brand Amcor ( make the biggest-selling air cleaners at Fortress stores (tel: 2555 5788; Sharp’s Plasmacluster model FU-888SV, which covers 31 square metres and retails at $2,680; and Amcor’s AP 2000, which covers 29 square metres and is priced at $1,180.

Sharp has donated 26 Plasmacluster units to the Hong Kong Adventist Hospital, which have been installed in the surgical and urgent-care wards, maternity, paediatric unit and playroom, and the out-patient’s clinic. ‘Before we accepted the gift, we asked our clinical staff to look through the scientific papers and reports from a number of sources to check whether the claims made by Sharp were true,’ says director of business development Jeremy Low. ”Our clinical staff said the machines did help in cleaning up the various agents, viruses and most bacteria in the areas these machines were located.’

An on-site assessment of your home or office is available from independent air-quality testers such as Desmond D.B. Chan of Acoustics and Air Testing Laboratory (2/F, 190 Prince Edward Road West, Kowloon, tel: 2668 3423; The firm conducts a 12-point test following guidelines proposed by the EPD, which costs $6,500 for eight hours of continuous testing, or $3,500 for surrogate testing (in which four areas are tested for a half-hour period). Although the firm, being independent, does not make recommendations, householders can check results against the guidelines on the EPD website (

For more details on how to improve your indoor air quality, visit the government’s Indoor Air Quality Information Centre in Kowloon Tong (78 Tat Chee Avenue, tel: 2788 6177;

Air cleaners should be used in conjunction with effective source control and adequate ventilation.