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. Hong Kong Pollution Leaves Tourists Choking

Hong Kong at night.
by Staff Writers
Hong Kong (AFP) Mar 20, 2006
Green activists said Sunday that Hong Kong's multi-billion dollar tourism industry was at risk after a survey found half the visitors to the city had complained of the worsening air pollution.

Friends of the Earth Hong Kong said the poll of tour guides also found that one in ten tourists suffered pollution-linked health problems while visiting the semi-autonomous southern Chinese territory.

The poll of more than 150 tour guides and agents who accompanied overseas and mainland Chinese tourists in Hong Kong also found that 40 percent of visitors were aware of the city's pollution problems before arriving. "Hong Kong's lucrative tourism business, its international image and its citizens' health are at risk from the pollution in this city," said Edwin Lau, Friends of the Earth Hong Kong coordinator.

"Matters have got to a terrible state in a very quick time," Lau added, citing an study that found Hong Kong Airport recorded one day of smog-related poor visibility in every 3.5 days last year, up from one in eight in 2002.

Last week smog levels rose to such dangerously high levels that the government was forced to warn people with breathing or heart problems to stay indoors.

Visibility also plummeted, blocking out the city's famous high-rise views and reducing visibility in the busy harbour to less than a kilometer.

The government has said most of the pollution rolls in from mainland China's heavily industrialised Pearl River delta region, which has seen huge economic growth in the past decade.

However, Friends of the Earth Hong Kong and local campaigners Clear the Air say local power producers are also major culprits.

"The pollution is not 'coming down from China'," said Annelise Connell, chairperson of Clear The Air, in a statement. "The sulphur dioxide levels are really bad ... which shows that our own power plants are involved in regional pollution," she added.

Lau said Hong Kong's two major power plants, which use a high level of polluting coal, and the city's bus companies, which rely on vehicles with poor emissions controls, were the major sources of pollution.

Tourism last year brought in a record 22 million visitors.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Pinpointing sources of unhealthy air pollutants is the goal of Virginia Tech College of Engineering researcher Linsey Marr, who has received a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award to support her investigation.

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