Saturday, January 12, 2013

HK's Updates: 2012 Sees Second Worst Roadside NO2 Pollution in Hong Kong's History Government and Industry must take action (11 Jan 2013)

2012 Sees Second Worst Roadside NO2 Pollution in Hong Kong's History Government and Industry must take action

Press Release
(11th January 2013) Based on Clean Air Network’s (CAN’s) analysis of the Environmental Protection Department’s air quality monitoring data from 2012, it is clear that Hong Kong’s air quality is still poor. Pollutant levels at all roadside stations exceeded the standards set by the new proposed Air Quality Objectives (AQOs) and, in fact, record high levels were seen at the Mong Kok roadside station. Furthermore, with the launch of the new Kai Tak cruise terminal coming up, the air pollution problem in Hong Kong is most likely to be exacerbated.
CAN urges the Government to outline concrete measures in the upcoming policy address and to work with invested stakeholders to tackle both road and ship emissions in order to effectively reduce Hong Kong’s air pollution.
Roadside emissions continue to reach high levels
According to the 2012 data, all pollutants at the Government’s fourteen general and roadside monitoring stations, with the exception of Tap Mun, reached levels exceeding the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) annual average standard – a situation that is cause for great alarm.
Roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in 2012 were the second worst in Hong Kong’s history, with NO2levels at roadside stations two times worse than levels found at general stations, indicating significant impact from vehicle emissions. In particular, NO2 concentrations in Mong Kok reached a record high of 122 µg/m3 and the general stations in Kwun Tong and Sha Tin also saw intensified NOlevels.
When comparing Hong Kong’s urban NO2 levels in 2011 (excluding roadside stations) with other cities in Mainland China, Hong Kong continues to rank the second to last among thirty two major Chinese cities, worse than Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou.
Ozone(O3) pollution in Hong Kong has also failed to improve. O3 levels at Kwun Tong, Sha Tin, and Tsuen Wan reached record highs (40 µg/m3, 46 µg/m3, and 32 µg/m3, respectively). In addition, the number of exceedances for 8-hr ozone increased from 2011 to 2012, under both the new AQO and the WHO guideline.
Lastly, suspended particulate matter (PM10) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) at all stations exceeded the WHO annual guidelines (20 µg/m3 and 10 µg/m3, respectively) by two to three times. Of further concern is that PM10 levels in Causeway Bay and Central also exceeded Hong Kong’s new AQO annual standard (50 µg/m3), and similarly, in Causeway Bay, the new AQO annual standard for PM2.5 (35 µg/m3) was also exceeded. The new AQOs for particulate matter are already extremely lax when compared to the WHO’s guideline, however, they still provide little constraint in regulating current PM2.5 levels.
Kai Tak cruise terminal will lead to deterioration of regional air
Levels of sulphur dioxide (SO2), a marker of marine emissions, exceeded the WHO annual guideline (5 µg/m3) at all monitoring stations. Kwai Chung and Tsuen Wan had the highest SO2 levels among all stations. The first of the two locations is a container and shipping terminal, reflecting a serious degree of influence from marine emissions that cannot be ignored.
Still, in general, SO2levels are declining and Hong Kong’s current SO2 concentrations are below the levels regulated by both the current and the new AQOs. However, even though the new AQO for 24-hr SO2seems considerably more stringent compared to the current AQO standard, it does not set the bar high enough to not provide any incentive for improving Hong Kong’s SO2 levels.  A final point of note, with regards to SOlevels in Hong Kong, is the Kai Tak cruise ship terminal, which will open in June this year. Many large cruise ships are expected to dock there and the residents of the area will have to bear the brunt of the resulting air pollution impact.
Deaths from air pollution ten times those caused by SARs
The Hedley Environmental Index estimated that, from January to December 2012, air pollution led to 3,096 premature deaths, 39,499 million in dollars lost, 151,300 hospitalizations, and 7.167 million doctor visits.  This makes the death toll due to air pollution in 2012 ten times higher than the total number of deaths caused by SARS in Hong Kong in 2003.
To remedy this situation, CAN recommends that the Government take urgent action to tackle roadside emissions. Some possible measures include replacing and upgrading all pre-Euro III commercial diesel vehicles (CDVs), with licenses no longer being handed out to any vehicles over 15 years old; establishing a scrapping scheme for polluting CDVs; replacing the catalytic converters in taxis and mini-buses; retrofitting all franchised buses with selective-catalytic reduction devices and setting strict standards for vehicle inspection and maintenance.
To tackle marine emissions, CAN suggests that the Government mandate all marine vessels switch to fuels with less than 0.5 percent sulphur content; build a power grid system for docking at the new Kai Tak Terminal; create an emissions control area within Hong Kong’s waters and eventually within the greater Pearl River Delta area; conduct long-term environmental, public health and economic studies to optimize future city and transport development plans.
Chief Executive Officer of CAN Sum Yin Kwong says, “The 2012 Air Quality Review marks a time to reflect upon Hong Kong’s air pollution problems and where they are headed. For years, the need to eliminate commercial diesel vehicles has been discussed, and now, with the upcoming policy address, it is time to outline some real actionable measures to improve our roadside air quality. Taxpayer dollars should be used to protect public health, instead of purely as subsidies for polluters. Therefore, we urge the Government and the transport industry to take responsibility to improve our air quality as soon as possible.”
Read the full report and presentation
For media enquiries, please contact:
Clean Air Network CEO Sum Yin Kwong
Tel:  3971 0106

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