Air pollution in Hong Kong
Air pollution in Hong Kong is considered a serious problem. Visibility is currently less than eight kilometres for 30% of the year. Cases of asthma
Asthma is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath...

 and bronchial infections have soared in recent years due to reduced air quality.

The EPD's Air Pollution Index

The Environmental Protection Department
Environmental Protection Department
Environmental Protection Department is a department of Hong Kong Government concerning the issues of environmental protection in Hong Kong.-History:...

 in Hong Kong was established to solve problems and provide for a long lasting acceptable level of air quality.

In June 1995, instead of adopting internationally accepted benchmark index for pollution
Air Quality Index
Air quality is defined as a measure of the condition of air relative to the requirements of one or more biotic species or to any human need or purpose. Air quality indices are numbers used by government agencies to characterize the quality of the air at a given location...

, it set up the Air Pollution Index
Air Pollution Index
The Air Pollution Index is a simple and generalized way to describe the air quality in mainland China, Hong Kong and Malaysia. It is calculated from several sets of air pollution data.-Mainland China:...

 as an indicator to pollution levels, both "General" and "Roadside".

Air Quality Objectives (AQOs) for seven widespread air pollutants were established in 1987 under the Air Pollution Control Ordinance (APCO), and have not been reviewed since it was set up. It is not clear how the levels are determined.

In October 2005, Task Force on Air Pollution criticised the Government for deluding itself with a pollution index that is a "meaningless" indicator of health risks. Professor Wong Tze-wai, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong commented that the current air pollution index "gives a false sense of security". Gary Wong, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong
Chinese University of Hong Kong
The Chinese University of Hong Kong is a research-led university in Hong Kong.CUHK is the only tertiary education institution in Hong Kong with Nobel Prize winners on its faculty, including Chen Ning Yang, James Mirrlees, Robert Alexander Mundell and Charles K. Kao...

's Department of Paediatrics and School of Public Health, said that under the current index, "some harmful pollution components aren't even recorded." In addition, he pointed out that there is no strategic plan or a timetable to tackle the problem, unlike in other countries

Street-level air quality regularly falls short of the government’s Air Quality Objectives (AQOs), and even further short of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Air Quality Guidelines, revised in October.

Academics called for Hong Kong Government to immediately update its air quality objectives set almost twenty years ago. For example, on 19 and 20 November 2006, roadside levels of respirable suspended particulates (RSPs – equivalent to PM10) exceeded the WHO guidelines by at least 300%. Prof Anthony Hedley of the University of Hong Kong said in September 2007 that if Hong Kong's Air Pollution Index was based on WHO recommended levels, our readings would be "absolutely sky high" for most of the year. Secretary for Environment, Transport and Works Sarah Liao Sau-tung
Sarah Liao
Dr. Sarah Liao Sau-tung, GBS, MBE, JP, FRSC was former Secretary for the Environment, Transport and Works of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and a member of the Executive Council of Hong Kong 2002...

 said the WHO targets were too stringent.

Greenpeace's Real Air Pollution Index

In September 2008, Greenpeace East Asia's Hong Kong office launched its "Real Air Pollution Index" as part of a campaign to get the government to update the Air Pollution Index to match WHO
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that acts as a coordinating authority on international public health. Established on 7 April 1948, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the agency inherited the mandate and resources of its predecessor, the Health...

 guidelines. The Real Air Pollution Index reports hourly pollution levels from 14 monitoring stations across the region and compares them to WHO standards.

Poor visibility

Declining regional air quality means visibility has also decreased dramatically. In 2004, low visibility occurred 18% of the time– the highest on record, according to the Hong Kong Observatory
Hong Kong Observatory
Hong Kong Observatory is a department of the Hong Kong government. The Observatory forecasts weather and issues warnings on weather-related hazards...

. The number of days in which visibility was less than eight kilometres rose to 102 in 2005 from 40 in 1997.

Health implications

The mortality rate from vehicular pollution can be twice as high near heavily travelled roads, based on a study conducted in Holland at residences 50 meters from a main road and 100 meters from a freeway. Since millions of people in Hong Kong live and work in close proximity to busy roads, this presents a major health risk to city residents. The Hong Kong Medical Association estimates that air pollution can exacerbate asthma, impair lung function and raise the risk of cardio-respiratory death by 2 to 3 percent for every increase of 10 micrograms per cubic metre of pollutants. Studies by local public health experts have found that these roadside pollution levels are responsible for 90,000 hospital admissions and 2,800 premature deaths every year.

Donald Tsang's comments

Chief Executive Donald Tsang
Donald Tsang
Sir Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, GBM, KBE is the current Chief Executive and President of the Executive Council of the Government of Hong Kong....

 declared that the high life-expectancy of Hong Kong demonstrates that concerns over air quality were not justified.
Professor Anthony Hedley, chair of community medicine at Hong Kong University, said "Tsang is badly advised on current public health issues." Hedley added that air pollution levels in the SAR were extremely high, and could affect the lungs, blood vessels and heart. James Tien
James Tien
James Tien Pei-chun GBS OBE JP is the former Chairman of the Liberal Party , a pro-business and pro-Beijing political party in Hong Kong, and former member of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong . He was also a member of the District Council of Hong Kong in the Central and Western district...

, former Chairman of the Liberal Party of Hong Kong, retorted, "Can [Tsang] really be confident that, if pollution continues to worsen, will he be able to promise the same life expectancy
Life expectancy
Life expectancy is the expected number of years of life remaining at a given age. It is denoted by ex, which means the average number of subsequent years of life for someone now aged x, according to a particular mortality experience...

 for our children and for our grandchildren?"

Economic impact

Even as early as 2000, the total negative impact to the Hong Kong Economy, including cardiorespiratory disease was in excess of HK$11.1 billion . Research by three universities and a think-tank estimates that the pollution is costing Hong Kong about HK$21.2 billion a year in hospital admissions and lost productivity. In addition, about 1,600 deaths a year might be avoided if air quality improves.

Made aware of fresh statistical and anecdotal evidence that pollution is driving away business and hurting Hong Kong's global competitiveness, James Tien called air pollution "a health issue, a lifestyle issue, a tourism issue, a business issue, and increasingly a political issue."

Merrill Lynch
Merrill Lynch
Merrill Lynch is the wealth management division of Bank of America. With over 15,000 financial advisors and $2.2 trillion in client assets it is the world's largest brokerage. Formerly known as Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc., prior to 2009 the firm was publicly owned and traded on the New York...

 downgraded several Hong Kong property companies because of air quality concerns, and there have been warnings from the head of the Stock Exchange
Hong Kong Stock Exchange
The Hong Kong Stock Exchange is a stock exchange located in Hong Kong. It is Asia's third largest stock exchange in terms of market capitalization behind the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the Shanghai Stock Exchange and fifth largest in the world...

 that pollution was scaring investors away. It said that the air quality in Hong Kong is now regularly so poor that its "long-term competitiveness is in some doubt", and advised clients to switch into developers in Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...


Pollution is dramatically harming not only the health of citizens of Hong Kong but also its economy, particularly relating to the ability to attract skilled foreign labour.

The chairman of the Danish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said each year at least two or three people decline offers to work in the Hong Kong offices of member companies because of pollution: "It's going to cost us in the future if we don't clean up here".

"Five years ago, air quality wasn't a concern when people considered whether to relocate to Hong Kong", said Jardine Engineering Corp. Chief Executive James Graham. "[In the past, o]ne of the advantages was clean air. We can no longer say that". A London-based human resources consultant recommends that companies pay a 10 percent hardship allowance to lure expatriates, partly because of air quality.

Switch to cleaner motor fuels

All HK taxis and many LPB now run on LPG.

2006 indoor smoking ban

The Smoking (Public Health) (Amendment) Ordinance 2006
The Smoking Ordinance (Hong Kong)
The Smoking Ordinance is a law in Hong Kong enacted in 1982 for smoking bans and regulation of sales of tobacco products. It has been amended several times ever since and the latest substantial amendment, known as the Smoking Ordinance 2006, was passed by the Legislative Council on 19 October...

 bans smoking indoors in restaurants, workplaces, schools, karaoke lounges, as well as beaches, swimming pools, sports grounds and public parks with effect from 1 January 2007.

Clear The Air Hong Kong

Clear the Air is a charity organisation committed to improving air quality in Hong Kong.
Current projects include:
  • Diesel – Recent government policies centred on voluntary schemes to phase out old polluting diesel vehicles (pre Euro 3) have proven ineffective. Further campaigns have to mandate a compulsory and scheduled phasing out of old polluting vehicles.
  • Energy – Aim to reduce harmful pollutants (PM 2.5) from power station emissions through more stringent Air Quality Objectives (AQO). Work to improve energy savings and efficiency in all public and private buildings across Hong Kong.
  • Events & Education – Participating in and/or driving various territory wide environmental events and educational programs on clean air.
  • Idling Engines – Successful idling engine patrols have highlighted awareness among the public and the government of increased road side pollution leading to a ban on idling engines across Hong Kong to be tabled at Legco.
  • Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) – Free IAQ assessments for schools to be extended; the first campaign started April 2008.
  • Marine – Research conducted to implement a "smoky vessel spotter" scheme. More needs to be done to establish a Clean Port Policy scheme.
  • Tobacco – Clear The Air is advocating the Government to license all tobacco retailers, pressing the Financial Secretary to increase tobacco tax, pressing Legco to rescind the flawed qualified establishment exemptions and educating the public that the true cost of smoking to Hong Kong society is in excess of $73.32 billion per year.
  • Town Planning – Clear The Air defends the benchmark of "canyon effect" and Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) to auto-regulate urban traffic density.

July 2006 Action Blue Sky Campaign

The Action Blue Sky Campaign
Action Blue Sky Campaign
The Action Blue Sky Campaign is an environmental campaign in Hong Kong, organised by the Environmental Protection Department, to clean up the city's air pollution. It was officially launched by Chief Executive Donald Tsang on 2006-07-25...

 was an environmental campaign organised by the Environmental Protection Department
Environmental Protection Department
Environmental Protection Department is a department of Hong Kong Government concerning the issues of environmental protection in Hong Kong.-History:...

, and launched by Chief Executive
Chief Executive of Hong Kong
The Chief Executive of Hong Kong is the President of the Executive Council of Hong Kong and head of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. The position was created to replace the Governor of Hong Kong, who was the head of the Hong Kong government during British rule...

 Donald Tsang
Donald Tsang
Sir Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, GBM, KBE is the current Chief Executive and President of the Executive Council of the Government of Hong Kong....

 in July 2006. Its campaign slogan in Chinese was "全城投入 為藍天打氣" ("Let all of the city join in to fight for a blue sky"), while its campaign slogan in English is "Clean Air for a Cool Hong Kong!" The campaign hoped to win support from the public as well as the business community, including those businesses investing in the Pearl River Delta Region
Pearl River Delta
The Pearl River Delta , Zhujiang Delta or Zhusanjiao in Guangdong province, People's Republic of China is the low-lying area surrounding the Pearl River estuary where the Pearl River flows into the South China Sea...


November 2007 vehicle idling ban

In November 2007, the government launched a public consultation on the proposal which would impose a fixed penalty of HK$320 on drivers who would violate a ban on idling, with taxi and minibus
Public light bus
A Public light bus is a common public mode of transport in Hong Kong. It mainly serves the area that standard Hong Kong bus lines cannot reach as efficiently. It is also colloquially known as a minibus or a van, defined as a kind of share taxi....

 drivers likely to bear the brunt of the ban. The government said its action is due to the failure of motorists to heed many past campaigns switch off engines while waiting. Taxi and minibus drivers were opposed to the proposal.

Currently it is illegal for any driver to leave their engine running if they get out of their vehicle. The courts have been awarding fines of HK$700. It is also illegal for taxis to loiter and minibuses to stop longer than necessary to pick up or put down passengers. It is also illegal to park anywhere except in a designated parking place. This means that the vast majority of drivers who idle their engines are already in violation of at least one existing traffic safety law.

However, traffic wardens are under strict policy guidelines not to give out any tickets unless there has already developed a "serious" obstruction of the roadway or there have been multiple complaints made by the public; this is the "Selective Traffic Enforcement Policy" (STEP).

Traffic safety policing of idling vehicles, therefore, falls to private organisations like "mini spotters" who act as volunteer traffic wardens, making statements to police that can be prosecuted without traffic wardens having to issue tickets directly to the transport trade.

2008–09 Budget measures

In the 2008–09 Budget, Financial Secretary
Financial Secretary (Hong Kong)
Financial Secretary , often abbreviated as FS, is a position of the Government of Hong Kong. The FS assists the Chief Executive in supervising the policy bureaux as directed by the CE, mostly finance and economy-related, and plays a key role in ensuring harmonisation in policy formulation and...

 John Tsang
John Tsang
John Tsang Chun-wah , GBM, JP, is the current Financial Secretary of Hong Kong. His responsibility is to assist the Chief Executive of Hong Kong in overseeing policy formulation and implementation in financial, monetary, economic, trade and employment matters. He exercises control over the...

 proposed a 100% profit tax
Profit tax
Profits tax in Hong Kong is Direct tax and also classified into Income tax.According to Cap 112 Hong Kong Ordinance - Inland Reveue Ordinance Section 14, unless otherwise provided, profits tax shall be charged at the standard rate on any person who carries on a trade, profession or business in...

 deduction for capital expenditure
Capital expenditure
Capital expenditures are expenditures creating future benefits. A capital expenditure is incurred when a business spends money either to buy fixed assets or to add to the value of an existing fixed asset with a useful life extending beyond the taxable year...

on environmentally friendly machinery and equipment in the first year of purchase, to encourage the business community to go green. He also suggested shortening the depreciation period of this equipment from the usual 25 years to 5 years.

External links

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