POLITICS – Hong Kong’s Very Own ‘Airpocalypse’ 1


The level of air pollution in HK yesterday was amongst the worst on record…

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Earlier in the week, via @Alex_Ogle on Twitter

The live statistics at HKU’s Headley Environmental Index revealed that from midnight till 5pm, there were 5 preventable deaths, 286 hospital bed days and 13,872 doctor visits related to air quality.

Yesterday’s air quality according to World Health Organisation Guidelines.

HK registered over 315 polluted days last year (which the government part-blamed on “sunshine“) and there were no “clear” days on record until this morning…

The economic cost to HK continues to be immense…

Economic loss to HK in the form of lost productivity and disease

Not to mention the health impact…

December 2013 in HK

Much of the city’s smog drifts in from HK-owned Guangdong factories, but 53% of emissions are local. Roadside pollution is the easiest to tackle – 40% of RSPs (harmful particles that penetrate deep into the lungs) come from buses.

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via the ‘Clear Air Network’ FB page.

Diesel bus fumes contain:

  • Particulate matter (PM), which can cause acute/chronic lung disease
  • Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) & volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which react together in sunlight to form ground-level Ozone. Together, Ozone and NOx can cause acute/chronic lung impairment.

Removing the dirtiest diesel vehicles could reduce roadside particles by 80%, and cut cancer risks by half. There is a subsidy replacement scheme for old private vehicles and some buses will be fitted with filters. However, the bus franchises still have a free pass to pollute…

via Clear Air Network

There remains 5,170 old, dirty buses on the road which are pre-Euro IV exhaust standard – 70% are Euro II or lower. The current standard, which kicked in last month, is Euro VI…

Euro VI is awesome, via pi-innovo.com

The government and bus companies have signed a contract to phase out pre-Euro V buses over the next 17 years – neither side wish to break the agreement.

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via Epoch Times

Replacing buses now would pay for itself. The peer-reviewed Journal of Benefit-Cost Analysis estimates that it would cost HK$15 billion to switch buses today for clean models, generating HK$26 billion in economic benefits from regained productivity and lower hospital admissions. 

Average hourly concentration of dangerous RSP & NOx emissions yesterday.

With its HK$52 billion surplus, the government could easily afford to fix this in a matter of months by purchasing modern models. The cost could be split evenly with bus companies.

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Earlier in the week, via @Alex_Ogle on Twitter

Environmental standards and health impacts are largely absent from the licencing of bus franchises.

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Wednesday, January 8th, via @lantaumama on Twitter

The Clean Air Network has called upon the government to bring forward the Euro V deadline, incorporate environmental performance into bus franchise agreements and to charge higher licencing fees for old buses.

Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth has called for bus routes to be rationalised. District counsellors and state subsidies keep little-used and unprofitable long distance routes alive. HK’s bus network map has barely changed in 20 years and has not kept pace with the city’s changing geography. Green groups have also called for more trials of hybrid and electric buses.

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via Getty/Lam Yik Fei

The next worst offender is shipping. Cargo and passenger marine vessels are the biggest source of sulphur and RSP emissions

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2011, via epd.gov.hk

Marine traffic in Shenzhen, Shanghai and Singapore is booming – Hong Kong’s port will drop to 4th busiest but our location means pollution will likely increase. The new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal will also worsen the city’s filthy air.

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Sulphur dioxide around HK emitted by shipping, HKUST report, 2012

There are currently few regulations tackling maritime pollution though legislators want to see shipping companies switch to greener fuels around HK waters. Many ships burn hazardous sulphur oil which is banned in Europe and North America.

Some have called for an emissions control centre to be set up for the Pearl River Delta region – a HKUST report found that a cross-border control zone could cut sulphur dioxide emissions by 95%. Others have urged CY Leung to make pollution a priority in his upcoming policy address.

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April 2013 via Getty/WSJ

Government efforts in recent years have ranged from ineffective to comical. The idlying engines and ‘smoking at bus stops’ ban was pointless, and former leader Donald Tsang’s 2007 promise to improve the air failed miserably.

Until our leaders enact serious measures to tackle smog, the only protection against HK’s toxic air are N95 face masks (regular surgical masks are not effective). You can purchase these masks from hardware stores (e.g. around Shanghai Street, Mongkok) or from these sources: TotoboboResproVogmask3M N95.

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Click to see full Greenpeace infographic

Visit the government’s new Air Quality Health Index. See also: Time Out feature by Anna Cummins.

Archive of political posts and coverage…

The front lines (in reverse chronological order – most recent first)…

Rallies/Demonstrations attended by, or covered by, Hong Wrong…

Reinterpreting major local news events in English for foreign readers and expats…