Reply To: Filthy air makes more Hong Kongers consider leaving


From S China Morning Post today; sad to learn of Eric Bohm, CEO of WWF Hong Kong, being prompted to leave Hong Kong because of the terrible air pollution – and having such a gloomy view of government's uselessness in the face of it.

Pollution fighter flees bad air

Government's failure to address pollution and lack of long-term 'green' vision is finally forcing the head of the WWF, Eric Bohm, to quit the city after 30 years

Cheung Chi-fai

May 10, 2012


Eric Bohm always feels outraged when he sees coach and car drivers leave their engines running outside his office next to the Peak Tram station in Garden Road, Central.

They are in breach of the law against idling engines and, if he isn't in a hurry, he will go out and challenge the drivers to switch off.

But not any more.

The 68-year-old chief executive of WWF Hong Kong, the city's largest green campaign group, is leaving the city he has spent the past eight years trying to save from further environmental degradation.

And his departure is a direct result of that continued degradation.

"My wife has asthma and the air quality here is not good. She had pneumonia twice last year, triggered by bad air and irritation. So I say enough is enough," he said.

Bohm, a Canadian who has been in Hong Kong since 1981 and worked as a financial controller before joining the WFF. He will migrate to Britain with Diane, his wife of 44 years, and be reunited with their daughter.

Bohm said he was reluctant to leave the city and would miss many things – the food, the people, the opportunities and the ice hockey team he founded.

But his disappointment over the government's inability – and lack of courage and determination – to address air pollution has finally become intolerable.

He hopes matters will change under the new government of chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying, who, along with the environment secretary he will appoint, should have the "courage of conviction" to defend good environmental policy.

He said Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen's administration lacked vision. It took the wrong approach by filling the city with more highways, another airport runway and more concrete. He said: "I hope C. Y. Leung's government will come in with [a vision of] what Hong Kong should look like and get that message across to the public."

Bohm said the problem was not that citizens did not care about the environment, but that the political system had become a stumbling block to environmental progress.

He cited the idling-engine ban as an example. The ban was heavily toned down after a political outcry from the transport sector.

"There is a very high level of public participation in Earth Hour. You know from it [this campaign] that the Hong Kong public is on that wavelength. So what is the problem?" he asked. "The problem is the political representation system, which looks after vested interests before it looks after the general [public's] interest."