The following letter was sent to the Director of Environmental Protection by Clear The Air:
Director of Environmental Protection – ENB
24th January 2009
Air Quality Standards Review
We are writing to express our NGO’s concern that Hong Kong’s air pollution is damaging local residents’ and visitors’ health and that the Administration’s belated current measures to address the problems remain ineffective whilst simply reporting platitudes.
Hong Kong is an extremely wealthy and developed first world city with ample resources to reduce air pollution , given the will to do so, and yet we know from the Hedley Environmental Index that last year alone 1,155 people died prematurely, there were over 83,000 avoidable hospital bed days, and 7.25 million doctors’ visits which were directly attributable to the toxic effects of local air pollution; this was at a minimum conservative cost of over HK$2.3 billion to society. We also know that for the major part of the year, the major pollution sources were locally generated. Our local power stations in 2007 burned 3 times more coal than they did in 1997 and 40% less gas than in 1999. Their greed is killing people. Perhaps you should suggest Exxon executives come and live here with their children ?
Given this evidence, we call on the Administration to demonstrate its commitment to imminent improvement of public health and reduction of resultant health costs by setting the World Health Organization’s Air Quality Guidelines as the new Air Quality Standards for Hong Kong, and to set out a strategy on how it intends to achieve these Standards. Without gazetted Standards the ‘Polluter Pays’ principle cannot be effective.
In this strategy please address all the major sources of pollution, but please apply particular urgency to reducing emissions from marine vessels and non Euro V diesel on road / off road vehicles. We encourage you to enact large increases in road tax for non Euro V diesel trucks, vans and buses (thereby making these vehicle owners trade up to Euro V) and to insist forthwith on low sulphur bunker fuel use within Hong Kong waters. We appreciate that the emissions from local power stations might soon be reduced following your Department’s belated requirement that flue gas desulphurization equipment is installed as well as Nox burners. In addition the level of the Standards you set MUST therefore require the power companies apply Best Available Current Technology and fuel mix and that includes agglomerators which can catch the lethal PM0.1 ultrafine and PM2.5 heavy metal emissions which the Electrostatic Precipitators cannot currently catch.
We would stress that Air Quality Standards and a clean air strategy that do not lead to rapid improvements in public health cannot be considered an acceptable outcome of the Review and action is required, not further consultation of a public that has already grown tired of this Government’s lack of decisive action.
Chairman Energy Committee