Earth Science News  





. Hong Kong Choked By Growing Pollution Problem

Last year investment bank Merrill Lynch warned that poor air quality could prompt big companies to move to Singapore with expatriate workers unwilling to live here. "The government in Hong Kong is relatively powerless to address the true causes until Beijing gets tough. It could be a long and choking wait that many could choose not to endure," it said.
by Claire Cozens
Hong Kong (AFP) June 30, 2007
Discarded cigarette packets, McDonald's wrappers and even old socks litter the shores of Lau Fau Shan in Hong Kong's far north, home to what remains of the territory's oyster farming industry. From across the border in China, factories belch smoke into the fetid air over Deep Bay, one of Hong Kong's most polluted stretches of water.

Ten years after the territory was handed back to the Chinese, pollution is one of the biggest problems facing the former British colony as it bears the environmental consequences of China's rampant economic growth.

For around a third of last year, Hong Kong's renowned Victoria Harbour was obscured by a grimy haze, with the number of days of reduced visibility up by 172 per cent since 1997.

Even the government says smog is now "a common phenomenon" throughout the heavily industrialised Pearl River Delta region of southern China.

"Pollution is a huge problem," said Lew Young of the World Wildlife Fund, which studies water and air quality.

"Visit Lau Fau Shan and you will certainly be wary of buying oysters in Hong Kong. But it is the rubbish you can't see that's causing the real problems."

Young manages the Mai Po marshes, a haven for migratory birds in northwest Hong Kong and designated a site of special scientific interest in 1976.

Since then Shenzhen, just over the border in China, has grown from a small fishing community into a thriving port and manufacturing hub of around seven million people, with huge environmental consequences.

"A lot of buildings were put up in a hurry -- cowboy stuff -- with no connections to proper sewage plants, because it was cheaper and easier just to connect them to the storm drains. Which means the sewage just flows straight into the bay," said Young.

"The authorities are planning to build more treatment plants on the Shenzhen side, but the pace of development is such that they cannot keep up."

Agriculture adds to the problem. Farmers are supposed to have their own water treatment facilities, but pumps that consume expensive electricity are often switched off at night when inspectors are less likely to notice.

Young said the situation improved under Hong Kong's last British governor, Chris Patten, who introduced legislation including a requirement that all big projects undergo an environmental impact assessment.

"He made some changes that had a positive impact. But afterwards a lot less happened."

The oyster industry has shrunk to just a few farms, and water quality is so bad that those that remain are threatened with closure.

Bird numbers have not recovered from a rapid decline in 1996, particularly rarer species, and Young said the bird population mainly consists now of more pollution-tolerant species.

His fears are echoed by many here, where worsening air quality and recent scares over contaminated food have put pollution at the top of the political agenda.

Chief Executive Donald Tsang's solutions -- turning notoriously arctic air conditioning systems up a couple of degrees and dressing down for the office over the summer months -- have failed to impress.

"It is a total sham and a shame," said Christian Masset, chairman of the environmental pressure group Clear the Air, of the government's policies.

"Any excess electricity produced in Hong Kong is simply sold to China instead. As long as that happens, electricity savings cannot result in less pollution. It's purely cosmetic."

Masset said there was a steady improvement in Hong Kong's air quality from the late 1990s, when diesel-fuelled taxis began being phased out and new rules were introduced on diesel for goods vehicles.

But in recent years, he says, the situation has worsened dramatically, much of it due to power plants switching from natural gas to cheaper coal.

Across the border, China's rampant economic growth has resulted in a surge in demand for energy, and coal-burning plants that were once closed down for environmental reasons are reopening -- although authorities in southern China are working to replace them with newer, cleaner facilities.

Last year investment bank Merrill Lynch warned that poor air quality could prompt big companies to move to Singapore with expatriate workers unwilling to live here.

"The government in Hong Kong is relatively powerless to address the true causes until Beijing gets tough. It could be a long and choking wait that many could choose not to endure," it said.

The conductor of the Hong Kong Philharmonic has moved his young family to the United States citing concerns over pollution, while an onboard lecturer on the Queen Mary 2 cruise ship visiting the city triggered a storm by advising passengers not to go ashore.

"It is no longer necessary today, as it still was last year, to argue that air quality is a serious issue for Hong Kong," said US Consul General James B Cunningham in a speech to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.

"A year ago people were still telling me that only expatriates in Hong Kong cared about pollution and its impact on the city's health and economic potential. I don't hear that any more."

Source: Agence France-Presse

Community
Email This Article
Comment On This Article

Related Links
Our Polluted World and Cleaning It Up




Tempur-Pedic Mattress Comparison

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News
Newmont Lodges Counter-Appeal In Indonesian Mining Case
Jakarta (AFP) June 27, 2007
US mining giant Newmont said Wednesday it had lodged a counter-motion against an appeal by Indonesian prosecutors, the latest twist in a high-profile pollution case that the company won in April. The local unit of Newmont and its president director, Richard Ness, contended in the motion that the appeal to the Supreme Court was unlawful as the original court hearing was in compliance with applicable laws.

.
Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
  



  • Impact Of Climate Change Equal To Nuclear War
  • Floods And Heatwaves Offer Warning Of Impact Of Climate Change
  • MIT Tool Determines Landslide Risk In Tropics
  • US Charitable Giving Sets New Record Topping Katrina Effort

  • Norway Decries EU Protectionism On Carbon Dioxide Quotas
  • Swiss Climate Warms Twice As Fast As Northern Hemisphere
  • Dutch Data Shows China Surpassed The US In 2006 Carbon-Dioxide Emissions
  • Climate Models Consistent With Ocean Warming Observations

  • Subcommittee Continues Look At Status of NASA Earth Science Programs
  • QuikSCAT Marks Eight Years On-Orbit Watching Planet Earth
  • Ukraine To Launch Earth Observation Satellite In 2008
  • NASA Satellites Watch as China Constructs Giant Dam

  • Russia Pipeline No Threat To Europe Caspian Project Says Gazprom
  • India-Iran-Pakistan Talks On Gas Pipeline Still To Continue
  • Statoil And Shell Scrap Carbon Capture Plans To Pump More Oil
  • ADB Eyeing To Boost Clean Energy Program

  • Three Cases Of H5N1 Bird Flu Confirmed In Germany
  • Ancient Retrovirus Sheds Light On Modern Pandemic
  • Bird Flu Fears Reignited
  • Bono And Geldof blast G8 AIDS Pledge Farce

  • Explorers To Use Robotic Vehicles To Hunt for Life And Vents On Arctic Seafloor
  • Ancient DNA Traces The Woolly Mammoth Disappearance
  • Book Makes Case For Using Evolution In Everyday Life
  • Study Shows Lizard Moms Dress Their Children For Success

  • Hong Kong Choked By Growing Pollution Problem
  • China To Force Polluters To Pay More
  • Newmont Lodges Counter-Appeal In Indonesian Mining Case
  • Jobs Trump Environment As Armenia Opens Giant Copper Mine

  • Urban Populations Booming
  • The Greening Of Alcatraz
  • AMA Cools Video Game Objections
  • Extra Police And Military For Australian Aboriginal Towns

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2007 - SpaceDaily.AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by SpaceDaily on any Web page published or hosted by SpaceDaily. Privacy Statement