Reply To: Hong Kong suffers Chronic Air Pollution


email newsletter from Christine Loh, of Civic Exchange: This may turn out to be a bad week for Donald Tsang’s (DT) career as a politician. As Hong Kong takes more pounding in the international media (NY Times has an editorial [see above]) on its poor air quality, DT showed he has yet to grasp the basics of air pollution. He needs now to make quick amends to show he is in command of at least his own knowledge. Most importantly, the government needs to acknowledge air pollution and public health are linked. A. How DT sees the air problem … radio transcript Backchat RTHK 8:00-8:30 am October 13 “… let me tell you the facts. There have been improvements … There are major pollutants in the air. There are sulphur dioxide … nitrogen oxides of all kinds and there are the Respirable Suspended Particulates, and then the fourth one is volatile organic compounds. Now, as far as NOx, the nitrogen oxide, and RSP and VOC are concerned, since 1997 each of these things have declined in terms of percentage. NOx has declined by 16% since 1997, and RSP 28% and VOC by 23%. Now we have only one problem sulphur dioxide. Sulphur dioxide in fact has increased by 47% and the main emitter of this is our power stations so that’s the reasons we are concentrating our efforts in improving and upgrading our power stations and we are doing that in the context of the next scheme of control we are negotiating with the power companies and I am determined, and I’ve said so in my policy address, and we will certainly resolve this question once and for all as far as the power companies are concerned. Now why do people feel that they don’t see that the air is poorer? It is a question of visibility. Is the air right, not so so the road side air quality but what we see into the air that is a small particle, that is small particulates which is coming from the mainland that may not effect us or the thing we breath but it effects our feeling that the air is not as good as before. Now this is something that we need a different set of solutions. We are working as you know with Guangdong Authorities to make sure that we have a concerted effort, to make a concerted effort to resolve that problem and you will see from my policy address that we are working on that … We must make sure that ourselves, we have to make sure that the community is good for our people and is welcoming to all sorts of people, businessmen coming here to work, expatriates coming here to live here, to settle the family and tourist coming here happily and I am certainly will work hard to towards those goals”. B. What Tsang tried to say … see if you agree 1. There is haze i.e. loss of visibility. 3. The small particulates which come from the mainland are the main causes of the haze. 4. The haze “may not effect us or the thing we breathe but it effects our feeling that the air is not as good as before”. 5. Roadside air pollution is poor. C. What is wrong with what Tsang said? 1. A large amount (70%+) of the particulates originate across the border, and yes, they affect the entire visibility of the region BUT to claim the loss of visibility “may not affect us or the thing we breathe” is UNTRUE. 2. Particulates are one of the most damaging pollutants to health because the smaller particles can penetrate into our blood and organs. The loss of visibility is an excellent indicator of worsening pollution. 3. To also say that it is the loss of visibility that gives people the “feeling” that the air is not as good as before implies the impact is more a “feeling” than a reality when it is clearly a reality. D. Observations … refusal to make the health link 1. DT’s incoherence and tortuous statement indicates his government is trying desperately not to make the direct link between air pollution and public health. 2. If an honest admission of the link was made, the government would need to show the people it must do very much more and do it quickly to improve air quality to the point where pollution no longer poses a significant health risk as it does at present. 4. Hong Kong people must make DT pledge during his election campaign to serve a 5-year term (2007-2012) to show a convincing comprehensive plan to clean-up. p.s. Civic Exchange presented such a plan to DT on 11/9/2006 – “An Air Management Plan”