A lot has been written and talked about Hong Kong’s air quality problem. Reading the newest comments by Hong Kong’s undersecretary of environment I was totally flabbergasted. “This can’t be true” I told myself. But alas it it…As Hong Kong is located right next to the factory’s workshop, Guangdong province, where everything is produced from garments, shoes to iPhones and iPads, it’s no surprise to learn that the air pollution is also affecting Hong Kong.
But a lot of air pollution, in fact most air pollution, is “produced” locally in Hong Kong. Mainly from shipping and roadside pollution. And the latter is baffling.
Hong Kong as an economy is rich! The government has been running a surplus for the last few years and zero debt. Plus, reducing roadside pollution is easy. Introduce new legislation and increase taxes for old vehicles. Done. It has been done in Europe from the early 1990s. The same in the U.S., Canada and other Asian countries.
It’s a puzzle to me why Hong Kong can’t do the same. According to this article in the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong will succeed replacing pre-Euro legislation vehicles by 2016.
Just for the record – this legislation was put in place in 1992! That is 22 years ago! So that means, some of the buses operating on Hong Kong’s road are a quarter of a century! And still in operation. Some also seem to have no catalytic converter! And that’s a technology dating back to the 1980s.
And you wonder roadside pollution goes above an API of 100 half the days in a year?
You might wonder why Hong Kong (or the guys in charge here) don’t do more about this.
It’s not hard to understand.
You see, Hong Kong is run by a small circle of people who only cares about increasing the personal wealth and couldn’t care less about the air in this city. This small circle also “elects” the government through a process that is anything but democratic.
Naturally, special interest groups (read: the transport industry) is quite good at making sure environment laws that are in place for cars, don’t count for buses or lorries.
And that’s what happened. If you want to register a car, it needs to comply with Euro 3. For busses and trucks, as you can read from the article, it’s a totally different story.
Will this change? I don’t know. I’m actually quite pessimistic. After all, once Hong Kong’s air really becomes unbreathable, Hong Kong’s “elite” can always return to their second-passport country (Canada, Australia, U.K.).
I’m feeling sorry for the 7 million others in this city who don’t have a choice… As I’m holding a European passport I might have to make a choice soon….
Most of my friends in Hong Kong have air purifiers at home
“Special interest groups”. Exactly. When two companies effectively run most of the buses on the roads, it must be nice to have friends in comfy chairs vetoing any attempt to get them up to scratch emissions-wise. Maybe I’m being overly cynical, but there’s either been some willful scuppering or serious incompetence going on somewhere for the past ten years.
As for the perfect, country-fresh air within five years, I’ll believe it when I smell it.